Thursday, September 4, 2008

Time to Remember a Pair of Novembers

Posted by Bruce Miller
On Monday, Sept 8, Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV will present the first Founders Award to Sara Belle and Neil November, recognizing their decades-long contributions to our two nonprofit theatres--a contribution comparable to the commitment of our founders—Pete and Nancy Kilgore, Muriel McAuley, Phil Whiteway and me. The award will be presented during a gala dinner event held at the University of Richmond Jepson Alumni Center, hosted by Suzanne Pollard, Marilyn and Jay Weinberg, Carole and Marcus Weinstein, Allison Weinstein and Ivan Jecklin. All proceeds from the event will be used to establish a Strategic Cash Reserve for Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV.

Sara Belle and Neil November have been instrumental in the success of Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV for decades. In her 1984 book, Going On … Barksdale Theatre – The First 31 Years, Muriel McAuley reports that the only reason Barksdale survived the early 80s and lived to celebrate its 30th birthday in '83 was because “Neil and Sara Belle November, longtime patrons and friends, headed up a fund drive. We already had The Barksdale Hundred (individuals who committed support of $100 per year). Neil established The Barksdale Thousand and raised enough money to get us through!”

That was the first emergency fund drive led by Neil November—followed by a larger one ten years later, and a spectacular capital campaign when Barksdale had to move from the Tavern to Willow Lawn in 1996. During these same years when Neil was saving Barksdale, Sara Belle was on the Board at Theatre IV, supporting our campaign to purchase and restore the historic Empire Theatre, and lending support to each and every annual campaign.

There are any number of people who have earned the right to hear us say, “Barksdale and Theatre IV would not be here today were it not for you.” Sara Belle and Neil November top the list.

And it’s not just about money. We have always been able to call Neil and Sara Belle for advice, contacts, shoulders to cry on, and jokes to laugh at. They’re at every opening night, and they cheer us on even when they don’t like a show (Neil – “What the hell was that about?!”; Sara Belle – “Don’t pay any attention to him!!!”)

Like all people of means, Sara Belle and Neil could have spent their money on themselves, and exhausted their time and talents on one big party. But throughout their lives, they have chosen instead to bestow their generous financial support and countless hours of hard work on any number of worthy community projects, including Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV, Westminster-Canterbury, the Science Museum of Virginia and the Virginia Aviation Museum, and many causes related to their Jewish heritage.

Let us say it again – Barksdale and Theatre IV would not be here today were it not for Sara Belle and Neil November. For that and so much more, we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
The physical award that will be presented to the Novembers on Monday is an original work of art commissioned from, designed and handcrafted by Steve Resnick, the world’s preeminent Judaic glass artist, living in Silver Spring, Maryland. Resnick’s original works have been presented to dignitaries worldwide including President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Senator Charles Schumer, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Resnick’s glass carving is characterized by its wonderful textural quality utilizing intricate organic motifs. The Founders Award is made from panels of celedon green glass (see photo to right), onto which olive branches have been gracefully etched (see photo to left). The award is inspired by the Tzedakah Box from Jewish tradition, signifying the spiritual obligation to give selflessly to others and work for justice. The olive branch design comes from Judeo-Christian and Greek traditions, symbolizing strength through peace. The award is hand-signed on its base by the artist. It can be displayed either on its pedestal or off.

If you see Sara Belle or Neil after Monday evening, please thank them for their life-giving support of Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV. And congratulate them on this most recent accolade.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to two incredible theater supporters. Where would theater in Richmond be without them? And where would Barksdale be? They should be SO proud to see what Barksdale has become--knowing that if it had not been for them "saving" the theater all those times in the old days, Barksdale would not be here today. But instead of going out of business or falling back on mostly commercial work, Barksdale has grown into one of the most vibrant and artistically excellent theaters in the country. It's certainly the best flagship theater (as Theater Virginia used to like to call itself) that Richmond has ever seen.

Sara Belle and Neil--see what wonders you have wrought?! Thank you!!!