Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Clean H" Earns B'dale National Wiki Notice

Posted by Bruce Miller
All right, I confess. It’s one of my goals to get Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV into Wikipedia. The Richmond Symphony has been thusly immortalized, as well as the Virginia Opera and the Landmark. Why not B’dale and TIV?

I’m not talking about being mentioned in someone else’s Wiki article. We’ve already achieved that distinction. Stefan Sittig (a choreographer who worked with us in days gone by) lists both Barksdale and Theatre IV among his credits in the Wikipedia article that’s all about him. And the Wiki article on Richmond itself includes the following (oddly worded) copy under its Arts and Culture listing:

“Barksdale Theatre- Founded in 1953, originally as the Hanover Tavern. Created the nation's first dinner theatre. The Barksdale was Virginia’s first performing arts organization to open its doors to integrated audiences. Continues today as The Hanover Tavern, in Hanover Virginia, Barksdale Theatre in Richmond.

Theatre IV- founded in 1975 by Bruce Miller and Phil Whiteway and is one of the largest running theatres in Virginia. Tours children's shows all over the country. Now a family playhouse after Bruce and Phil took over Barksdale Theatre in Willow Lawn in 2001.”

Hmmm. Guess I’ll have to try to edit that a little. But it’s fun to know that Wiki and we are on a first name basis.

What I’m talking about is articles of our own, so that when you see us listed in someone else’s article, the names Barksdale and Theatre IV appear in blue and you can click on them to link instantly to the big articles that’re just about us.

I just discovered that our current production of The Clean House has taken us one step closer to achieving that goal. In the Wiki article about The Clean House and it’s current prominence in world theatre, Barksdale made the cut—which makes me mighty proud. Here’s what the operative part of the article says, word for word:


The Clean House won the 2004 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, awarded annually to the best English-language play written by a woman, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. It has received glowing reviews from certain critics: Variety called the play a “…wondrously mad and moving work…” and Charles Isherwood of The New York Times dubbed it a deeply romantic comedy, “…visionary, tinged with fantasy, extravagant in feeling, maybe a little nuts.”

Other publications, such as The Village Voice and The New Yorker were more critical, registering complaints about the play's style and its treatment of Mathilde. At the end of 2006, Entertainment Weekly magazine named the New York production one of the top ten theatrical attractions of the year.

The Clean House has been produced at South Coast Repertory (West Coast premiere, January 2005), the Goodman Theatre (spring 2006, in Ruhl's native Chicago), The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington, D.C. (July 11 — August 14, 2005) [1], Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (New York premiere, October 2006), Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, England (April 2006, European Premiere) and at Northampton's Royal & Derngate theatres (Feb 08 then UK tour).

The Sheffield production featured Patricia Hodge (Lane) and Eleanor Bron (Ana/Mathilde's mother). It was directed by Samuel West. Both actors revive these roles for Northampton and UK tour, directed by John Dove.

The Lincoln Center production featured Blair Brown (Lane), Jill Clayburgh (Virginia), John Dossett (Charles/Mathilde's father), Concetta Tomei (Ana/Mathilde's mother), and Vanessa Aspillaga (Mathilde).

The Clean House was shown at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury in March and April 2008. A French version was played in Montreal a the Espace Libre theatre in February 2008 called "Une maison propre".

Will run at the Barksdale Theatre in Richmond, VA from Sept. 26-Nov. 2nd, 2008.”

And that’s it, folks. No other theatres are mentioned. Barksdale is in some proud international company, and we didn’t even put ourselves there, I swear.

Anyway, I thought that was pretty interesting. So, if you have yet to see the lovely Sarah Ruhl play that earned this national notice for little old Barksdale, please make your reservations for The Clean House ASAP. You’ll be glad you did.

See you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller

Hats Off to Barksdale's Mighty Volunteers

Posted by Bruce Miller
Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, ages, races and creeds. God bless them every one.

About 120 of Barksdale and Theatre IV’s finest volunteers gathered last evening for our annual Volunteer Rally in our Willow Lawn lobby. Jean Hartley (our Volunteer Coordinator), her husband Dorman, Jennings Whiteway (our Events, Access and Food Service Manager), Jeanette Blaylock (volunteer chef extraordinaire), and Bob Albertia (our Group Sales Manager) provided the management, food and decoration for the event.

Steve Moore tickled the ivories beautifully throughout the evening. Speakers included Jean Hartley, Joy Ross (our Community Relations Manager), Bob Albertia, Phil Whiteway and me. Jeanette Blaylock’s famous artichoke dip, crab dip, fresh salsa and brownie bites complemented the crudités and ham biscuits provided by our friendly and generous downstairs neighbors, Padow’s Deli. From all appearances, a fun time was had by all.

Present in everyone’s hearts was Elizabeth Prevatt, one or our foremost and longest-serving volunteers, who died last month at age 82. Elizabeth was the elegant, prim, white-haired lady who for many years greeted audience members and took their tickets as they entered the lobby at the top of our stairs. With love and respect, our current production of The Clean House is dedicated to Elizabeth's memory.

Volunteers at Barksdale and Theatre IV work as ushers at our Willow Lawn, Hanover Tavern, and historic Empire theatres. They also assist with concessions, man the Will Call Window in our box office during some performances, assist with lunch service responsibilities during Bifocal’s matinees, and provide administrative support as needed.

Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV would not survive without our able, talented and generous volunteers. If you would like to join our growing volunteer family, please call Jean Hartley at 355-3434.

See you at the theatre!

(Photo note: The youthful volunteers pictured above and to the left served on the all-volunteer crew for Barksdale and Steward School's co-production of Disney's High School Musical during the summer of 08.)

--Bruce Miller

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our First Review for "The Clean House"

Posted by Bruce Miller

We welcome Julinda Lewis to the growing fold of Richmond theatre critics. She wrote a complimentary review for The Clean House in this morning’s T-D (more about that in a moment). Ms Lewis has been reviewing dance in Richmond for four or five years now, and she’s critiqued other theatrical shows and companies over the last 18 months, including one show at Theatre IV. This is her first review of a Barksdale production, and we’re pleased to be working with her.

Ms Lewis is director of the Ayinde2 Children and Ayinde2 Youth Dance Ministries at St Paul’s Baptist Church in Richmond. Prior to moving to Richmond, she was the founding director of the Spiritual Walking Liturgical Dancers at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY, where she grew up and studied dance with George Faison, Fred Benjamin, Eleo Pomare, Maurice Hines and Pepsi Bethel. She also studied with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Ms Lewis holds BS and MA degrees in Dance and Dance Education from NYU’s School of Education, Health, Nursing and Arts Professions. She has been a dance writer and critic for more than 25 years. She is the author of a young adult biography, Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance, and editor of Black Choreographers Moving Towards the 21st Century, which has been used as a textbook in dance programs throughout the nation.

Ms Lewis is enrolled in the PhD in Education program at VCU. Her dissertation examines the needs and perspectives of gifted performing arts students. She is currently a teacher with the SPACE Program (Special Program for Academic and Creative Excellence) with Richmond Public Schools, and a frequent contributor to Dance and Pointe magazines. Just like her esteemed T-D colleague, Susan Haubenstock, Ms Lewis works as a “Special Correspondent” for the Times-Dispatch.

Here are the quotes we'll be pulling and publishing from her glowing review of The Clean House:

Free-Spirited, Romantic Comedy
Vivacious, Mystical, Defies Convention
The best tantrum ever seen on a stage!
An Analogy for Love ~ Poignant ~ Beautifully Designed
Everyone is Laughing!”

--Julinda Lewis, Richmond Times-Dispatch

We’re so proud of this beautiful production of a great play by Sarah Ruhl, and honored to be partnering with the Firehouse on the Sara Ruhl Festival. If you haven’t made your reservations yet to see The Clean House at Barksdale and Euridice at the Firehouse, I hope you’ll call the box office today at 282-2620.

See you at the theatre!

(The Jay Paul photos seen above picture the following outstanding cast members: [top left] Bianca Bryan and Robin Arthur, [top right] Kelly Kennedy, [mid left] Bianca Bryan and Robin Arthur, [mid right] John Moon and Robin Arthur, [lower left] Jan Guarino, [lower center] Jan Guarino and Bianca Bryan.)

--Bruce Miller

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman - A Great Man of the Theatre

Posted by Bruce Miller
Paul Newman died on Friday. He was 83 years young. For many years I’ve respected Paul Newman as much as I’ve respected anyone in my chosen field of theatre. He was a great star, so I’m hardly alone in this. But I have to write it down anyway.

Mr. Newman began his career with the Broadway production of William Inge's Picnic in 1953. (He did some TV prior to his theatrical debut, but his first film was The Silver Chalice in 1954.)

He continued starring in the Broadway productions of The Desperate Hours (1955), Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), Baby Want a Kiss (1964), and Our Town (2002). (He played George Gibbs in the 50s TV production of Our Town, and played the Stage Manager on Broadway in 2002.)

His celebrity came from his work in films. His legacy will live on through his many exemplary humanitarian enterprises.

There’s a nice memorial piece about Mr. Newman at http://www.slate.com/id/2201116/. I recommend it to you. He was one in a million, and his life is worth remembering.

Many, many people will write volumes in tribute to this great man and outstanding artist. My words are not needed; there’s nothing personal I can add. But it doesn’t feel right to remain silent.

He affected our theatre and our work by setting a great example, even if we never had the privilege of a direct connection. The world will miss him. Our full hearts go out to his wife and family.

--Bruce Miller

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Clean Lobby

Posted by Bruce Miller
When you come to see The Clean House, opening this Friday, you’ll notice that our theatrical house is, in fact, noticeably cleaner. After a few weeks’ investment of sweat equity, our hardworking Board is about to complete a redesign of our downstairs lobby.

This is Phase III in the gradual renovation of our Willow Lawn theatre facilities. Phase I was the installation of our new sidewalk awning at the top of the 07-08 Season. Phase II was the addition of our new exterior signage last spring.

As you’ve no doubt discerned, we’re transforming our duckling into a swan step by step, as time and contributed funds allow. We began with those components that you first encounter when walking toward the theatre from the parking lot. Now we’re making our way indoors.

Phase IV will be the cosmetic renovation of our elevator, and then we’ll move onward and upward to our box office and, thereafter, the atrium that surrounds our stairway as it ascends to the theatre proper.

The work on the downstairs lobby is not yet finished, but we’re promising completion of at least the painting before the end of the week.

All thanks go to the two guiding lights of this noble effort:

John Moon (actor, director and past Board President), who has organized and implemented the work. When not laboring in theatre, John is engaged professionally as a designer of exhibits and installations at museums and other cultural institutions nationwide.

David Crank (set and costume designer and former Board member at TheatreVirginia), who has shared with us his design expertise. David just won an Emmy Award for his Art Direction of the John Adams miniseries. Before John Adams, David worked as Art Director of last year’s multiple Oscar-winning film, There Will Be Blood.

Both men have generously donated their time and talents to this project, and we thank them for their gracious contribution to the cause.

You may remember that the downstairs lobby was originally painted a peach / cream color. Various viewers have described the particular tint and its twelve-year patina as “Silly Putty” (Phil), “Band-Aid” (me), and “Nipple” (Page Bond).

Since last the roller met the wall in 1996, the interior surface has become markedly scratched, dinged and smudged, so it was time (past time really) for Extreme Make-Over: Barksdale Edition.

The new color is a deep, dramatic crimson, serving as an elegant background for new photo displays enhanced by new track lighting. A good deal of clutter has been removed from the lobby. We’re creating new, more coordinated and informative interior signage, and constructing a new, comfortable seating area opposite the elevator.

The work was performed on a volunteer basis by Barksdale Board members (ably assisted by Emily Cole from our development staff). David Powers, our Tech Director at Hanover Tavern, is constructing the new seating. Many thanks to all those who made this renovation possible.

As you experience our spruced up digs, please let us know what you think. The theatre’s public spaces are always a work in progress, just as are our continually changing stage sets. We welcome your input, and look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

(Notes on photos: top right - today's view of the wall where our photo boards will go, the church bench will soon be replaced with other seating; top left - the new "etched" logo on our glass front doors, reflecting this morning's sunny parking lot; mid right - Pardon Our Dust; lower left - new lighting outside the box office window; lower right - our staging area in the atrium, the vintage Barksdale sign will soon be re-hung by the front door with a plaque explaining its history.)

--Bruce Miller

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meet the Cast of Driving Miss Daisy: Garet Chester – “Boolie”

Posted by Joseph Pabst (Director of Driving Miss Daisy)
(Note: Driving Miss Daisy runs from September 19 through October 26, 2008 at the Barksdale at Hanover Tavern. Over the next several weeks, we will shine the spotlight on each of the three members of the cast.)

Garet Chester has been on hiatus from the professional stages of Richmond theatre for nearly 15 years. But Driving Miss Daisy has drawn him back onto the boards. Why? “Because of its wholesome nature,” says Garet. “It’s a show that you can bring your teenagers to see. This show is not just wholesome … it’s warm, touching, thought provoking, and it will definitely make people laugh and smile.”

Portraying “Boolie Werthan” (Daisy’s son) has given Garet an acting challenge as well. He is a comedic actor at heart, but this character is written to be a bit of the straightman – providing some humor while basically being a thread that keeps the show level. Like Boolie, Garet is a very playful guy who loves to “get people’s goat” whenever he can. However, Garet is less concerned about keeping up appearances than his on-stage counterpart. “I don’t think I’m afraid of what people will think about certain unorthodox actions I may take. If I believe it, I do it. I don’t worry about the status quo.”

On the stage, Garet considers playing the Wizard in Theatre IV’s The Wizard of Oz among his personal favorites. Having grown up watching the movie, it allowed him to play a childhood fantasy role. It was also an acting challenge to play three different characters – the Wizard, Professor Marvel and the Emerald City Gatekeeper. In Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Garet took the opportunity to stretch his acting skills playing Alfred, the young man who plays all the female characters in a Shakespearean troupe. He portrayed Allistair Spenlow in a production of Move Over Mrs. Markham, a mistaken-identity role which kept the audience guessing… and laughing a lot – a reaction he never objects to!

But rather than his stage work, Garet is probably best known to Richmonders for his voice. His career on Richmond radio stations as the “morning guy” made him a celebrity all over town, affording him the opportunity to speak in person at all kinds of events and to be the frontman for a number of charities and causes. On television, he has hosted telethons, appeared on interview programs, and even had his own show on Channel 8 for over 2 years: All Night Long. Garet describes the show as:

“… a cross between USA's Up All Night or Elvira and Saturday Night Live...with one cast member. It was a great experience in improv and quick-change comedy. Since it ran from 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM, my audience was ‘diverse’. My usual stream of fan mail included regular correspondence from several of Virginia's finest correctional facilities. That was quite interesting!”

This style of character comedy mixed with improv became Garet’s trademark. He was Chameleon Boy, making personal appearances in costume as famous movie stars, presidents or other crazy characters. And he continues his “impressionovisational” work to this day. Lite 98 listeners will be glad to know that Garet Chester and “Bubba Massey Valentine III” are one and the same! (Now you know why they never appear in the same room together…)

His life offstage is filled with a mixture of work and family. Most Richmonders may be unaware that Garet is a successful businessman in his own right, constantly ranking in the top 5-10% of Richmond Real Estate agents. Because his business is home-based, he is fortunate to spend lots of quality time with his wife and family. His daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren live with him; and his son and daughter-in-law live close by as well.

Garet considers his life a ministry, and his musical and comedic talents are his tools. He sings for seniors around Richmond, and performs slapstick for the underprivileged around the world. For the past twenty years, he has spent a few weeks each year on foreign mission trips.

“Bringing a smile to otherwise somber faces is my most rewarding pastime.”

--Joseph Pabst

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Miss Daisy Wows the Crowds and Wins Raves

Posted by Bruce Miller
Driving Miss Daisy, our funny and poignant fall show at Hanover Tavern, opened on Friday evening and today earned it's first rave and fourth standing ovation! Daisy was directed expertly by Joe Pabst. The heartwarming play stars Joy Williams, Jim Bynum and Garet Chester.

In this morning's T-D, Susan Haubenstock writes: "Nostalgia is the first emotion elicited by Driving Miss Daisy--nostalgia for the play's period, the post-WWII years up through the civil rights era, and for the 1987 play itself. Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning work pointedly and touchingly looks at race relations in the South by focusing on one well-to-do elderly Jewish widow and one slightly less elderly black man. Through their interactions over 25 years the playwright delicately reveals the prejudices, blind spots and humanity representative of many Americans, yet particular to these two people."

Susie goes on to praise just about everything. Here are the review quotes we'll be pulling and publishing for anyone who'll read them:

“A Godsend!

Three FINE actors:

Joy Williams is a marvelous Miss Daisy.

Jim Bynum inhabits Hoke fully, giving us his dignity, warmth and humor.

Garet Chester is the mirror for both of them.

Joe Pabst directs with emphasis on the comedy,
but he doesn’t short-change the serious moments at all.

A touching, excellent ride!”

--Susan Haubenstock, Richmond Times-Dispatch

The wonderful costumes, wigs and make-up are by Sue Griffin. The attractive set design is by Amy Bale and David Powers, with outstanding scenic painting by Terrie Powers. The evocative lighting is by Bennett Fidlow. But at the end of the day, it's Joy, Jim and Garet who will knock your socks off.

The show is already selling well, and the box office should catch fire after this morning's review. So please plan to join us now for this very funny, very touching look at a meaningful and good-humored American story.

Hope to see you at our Hanover Tavern theatre!

--Bruce Miller

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The McAuley-Kilgore Memorial Library

Posted by Bruce Miller

Under the exemplary leadership of John Glenn, Barksdale Theatre moved from Hanover Tavern to its new digs at Willow Lawn in 1996. The plan at the time was to create a theatre library in honor of our founders, Nancy and Pete Kilgore and Muriel McAuley (pictured above, left to right). A tasteful room was built off the southern end of the lobby, and the words “McAuley-Kilgore Memorial Library” were emblazoned over the elegant French entry doors in letters of gold.
Predictably, the renovation that transformed the former second floor warehouse area into the intimate and comfortable theatrical setting we enjoy today required a larger investment of time and money than originally planned. And so the construction of permanently installed bookshelves in the “Library” was postponed until such time as resources became available for their design and assembly.

One thing led to another, and now, in 2008, we still have yet to transform our “Library” into a library.

Countless boxes of scripts, theatrical texts, showbiz biographies and original cast albums remain in storage, waiting for over a decade for their promised homeland. The collection of tomes has grown over the years as loyal Barksdalians have contributed their home libraries to our long anticipated public “Library.”

In the interim, a private theatre library was started at VCU in memory of the great director and theatre prof Ken Campbell. More recently, in association with RAPT, David Sennett has generously launched an internet-connected lending library from his home.

But the McAuley-Kilgore Library, when it finally comes to pass, will still fill an important void. When the general public wants to walk into a room and peruse shelves filled with theatrical scripts and reference works, there’s still no place in Central Virginia for them to go. For all their many strengths, our local public libraries are woefully short on scripts. Many a professional and amateur actor and/or theatrical student has searched for even a well-known play only to learn that a well stocked, “open to the public” theatrical library still doesn’t exist in Greater Richmond.

Until that day when the McAuley-Kilgore Library finally opens to meet at least part of that need, our “Library” is being put to good use. The Richmond Playwrights Forum has been meeting there on a monthly basis for years. Theatre IV’s Board of Directors and Barksdale’s Board of Trustees call the “Library” home for the lion's share of their Board and committee meetings. Countless production meetings have been held there, not only for shows at Willow Lawn, but also for shows at the Tavern and the Empire. Small armies of students and children have gathered around the table engaged in seminars and summer camp experiences.
Most tastefully of all, the “Library” has welcomed a cornucopia of buffets and party spreads in service to an endless parade of cast soirees and group outings.

Hopefully, the longed for end will soon be in sight. David Powers, our Technical Director at Hanover Tavern and carpenter extraordinaire, has designed and priced the shelves, and this year we will be in the process of raising $12,000 in capital funds to refurbish and install the inner workings that will one day allow our “Library” to live up to its name. If you or any of your associates would like to help with this fundraising effort, please email Emily Cole. If you would like to donate books and/or recordings of a theatrical nature, please contact Brad Tuggle at the same address.

Our goal is to refinish the handsome conference table and chairs donated by the Markel Corporation in 1996, enabling us to continue to use the “Library” for all of the multi-purposes that have emerged over the last 12 years. We also plan to continue to display the historic portraits of Pete, Nancy, Muriel and Pat Carroll. Surrounding these practical and cherished features, we’ll one day have a fine collection of theatrical reading and listening materials to meet our community's need.

Muriel, Pete and Nancy (especially Muriel) had the greatest reverence for books. One day soon, we’ll all be able to enjoy and benefit from the Library built in their name, with the greatest reverence for their memories, and all they meant to Central Virginia.

--Bruce Miller

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In Memoriam: Lloyd Shockley

Posted by Bruce Miller
Today, I'm afraid, is not turning out to be a good day. Within a couple of hours of hearing of the passing of Elizabeth Prevatt (see the post that follows), I’m saddened again to report the death of a key figure among Barksdale’s legendary actors, Lloyd Shockley. Tom McGranahan called our office this morning with the bad news. Apparently Lloyd's obituary appeared in the newspaper over the weekend but I missed it. We had heard that Lloyd was suffering from cancer and that the prognosis was not good. But no one expected things to progress so quickly.

Lloyd first appeared on the Barksdale Hanover Tavern stage in 1973 as the handsome new actor who starred as Jonathan Harker in Dracula and Paul Bratter in Barefoot in the Park, back to back. He performed in those early years under the name Lloyd Wayne. In ‘75 he joined Barksdale's all-star cast of That Championship Season, followed immediately by the comedy thriller, Catch Me if You Can. In ’76 he appeared in one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen at Barksdale, My Fat Friend, and in ’77 he channeled John Barrymore in The Royal Family (see both photos).

His most famous role at Barksdale was as McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1979. I use the word "famous" because: a) Lloyd was terrific in the part (I saw him Opening Night and was blown away), and b) early in the run he broke his leg and had to be replaced with no notice by John Tayloe, a talented young actor who had recently appeared in the same role at TheatreVCU. Lloyd’s last role at Barksdale may have been the 1981 world premiere of Bad Day at Black Rock.

Since then, Lloyd has been focusing on his very successful career in marketing, representing clients from around the country, including, I’m told, Walt Disney World.

Lloyd had an edgy energy that drove audiences wild—it was a Jack Nicholson sort of thing. The last couple times I saw him, we talked about his return to the stage. He may have been humoring me, but he always seemed at least somewhat interested. It was like acting was something he looked forward to revisiting sometime after he retired.

After initially posting this memorial, I was reminded by colleagues that Lloyd's last acting gig may have been Theatre IV's production of Hamlet in the Little Theatre, sometime in the early to mid-90s. Hamlet was directed by Gary Hopper (one of Lloyd's co-stars in Bad Day at Black Rock), and starred David Bridgewater. One of the funniest Hamlet stories (and we all know what a laugh riot Hamlet can be) involves Lloyd, so I'll retell it now.

Any of you who have ever been involved in a production with either Gary Hopper or Dave Bridgewater know that these guys relish quirky creativity. Put them together and it's time to sing Katie, Bar the Door.

Lloyd was playing Claudius to Dave's Hamlet. During the rehearsal process, Dave was flipping channels one night and happened upon The Godfather Part II on TV. Dave saw the amazing scene where Al Pacino as Michael goes up to John Cazale as Fredo (Michael's brother) and delivers the "kiss of death," indicating to the world that Fredo must be killed for betraying his family. "Il bacio della morte." You can find the scene at http://www.boxxet.com/Al_Pacino/video:the-godfather-the-kiss-of-death/.

Dave thought this would be a GREAT inspiration for the scene where Hamlet kills Claudius. When he shared the idea with Gary, Gary agreed. So the two of them sat down with Lloyd. They explained to Lloyd their idea: Hamlet (Dave) would stab Claudius (Lloyd), then take the poisoned wine. Hamlet would toast the fallen (but not dead yet) Claudius, take a big swig of the wine (Hamlet knows by this time that he's been poisoned, so what's he got to lose), and then give Claudius the "kiss of death."

From all accounts, Lloyd, who was a pretty straight-forward actor, listened to their idea with this twisted, skeptical smile growing on his face, eyebrows rising higher and higher as the details emerged. The look on his face has been described to me as "priceless." Then, just as everyone thought Lloyd was going to laugh them out of the room, he snorted and said, "Well, all right. But no tongue!"

They wound up playing the scene with the "kiss of death" every night, and it never failed to elicit a gasp from the audience. Thanks to Dave for reminding me of this story.

Good ole' Lloyd. He was only in his mid-60s. He left us far too soon and will be greatly missed. May "flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

In keeping with our tradition, we will dedicate our holiday production of A Sanders Family Christmas at Hanover Tavern to his memory. And we will always honor his on-stage talent and his off-stage friendship.

Note: Both photos come from Barksdale's 1977 production of The Royal Family. The women in the top photo are Rebecca Barrows as Della and Nancy Kilgore as Julie Cavendish. Lloyd played Anthony Cavendish.

--Bruce Miller

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Prevatt

Posted by Bruce Miller
I am sad to write today about the passing of our dear friend, Elizabeth Prevatt. With love and respect, we will dedicate our upcoming production of The Clean House to her memory. Her physical house (a neat-as-a-pin apartment on Malvern Ave.) and her spiritual home (her army of friends from Miller & Rhoades and Barksdale) were always comfortable, welcoming and especially well tended.

Elizabeth worked for years at M & R as Assistant Merchandise Controller, using her watchful eye to ensure that product sales and purchases stayed in proper balance. After her retirement, Elizabeth soon became one of Central Virginia’s most hard working and omnipresent volunteer theatre ushers, not only at Barksdale, but, on occasion, at venues all around town.

Many of you will remember her as the elegant, prim, white haired lady who tore your tickets as you entered the lobby at the top of the stairs. Elizabeth was here for almost every performance, year after year. She worked throughout the run of Guys and Dolls. She was a kind, loving, openhearted member of our theatre family, and we will miss her and treasure her memory for years to come.

Elizabeth was pre-deceased by her beloved son, and well cared for by her loving daughter-in-law, Gloria. A memorial service will be held in her honor on Friday at 1 pm at Battery Park Christian Church, 4201 Brook Road.

--Bruce Miller