Monday, December 31, 2007

Richmond Shakespeare's Blog: Coming Attractions!

This entry will live at the top of the page for a while, so scroll down for news and updates.

Welcome, friends, to Richmond Shakespeare's new blog!

I am Andrew Hamm, Director of Training, and I will be your moderator for this discussion. No longer content to just comment over on
my own blog, I'm beginning a new endeavor of a more official nature over here.

This will be a bit more casual, and a lot more interactive, than RS's official website,, but no less informative. I freely acknowledge the debt of inspiration I owe to the big, beautiful Barksdale Buzz for giving me the idea. We can only hope to be as gorgeous as that site.

This site will be your web-source for news, updates, discussion, reviews, and general chit-chat about the goings-on here at RS. Please participate in the discussion! You can start by clicking on the "comments" link below to tell me what you'd like to see on this blog.

Anonymous posting is not permitted on this blog. This is not to discourage people from commenting, or even from disagreeing with each other. I love a good debate! But it has been my experience that anonymous posting allows much more irresponsible, insulting, and generally thoughtless web chat than if you sign your name to your comments. I encourage you to sign up for a Google account; it's quick and easy to do. If you don't have one, you'll be prompted through all the steps in the "comments" screen. The "Anonymous" posting option will remain for those who don't wish to sign up for a Google account, but any "anonymous" posts that do not include the poster's real name will be deleted. If you have a Google screen name that does not include some version of your real name, we similarly require that you sign your name to your post.

You can always email me at with any questions or issues that you don't wish to make public on this board. Your confidentiality will be kept absolutely.

So what can be expected here?
  • Shows! What's playing right now, what's in rehearsal, and what the process is like.

  • Classes! What's going on in the Training program? (Hint: it's big!)

  • Auditions! When can you audition for the Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft Hall? (Hint: pretty soon!)

  • Pictures! A behind-the-scenes look at what's going on in our corner of the Richmond theatre world.

  • Links! To our friends around town, companies, organizations, and individual artists we know and love.

  • Discussions! We Shakespeareans like to think deep thoughts (in between the sex, violence, and supernatural that pervades the plays, of course), and I think theatre artists like to talk about their craft. In fact, I've read lots of discussions about the art and business of theatre on my blog, Barksdales, and the invaluable Richmond VA Theatre blog. This will be a place to come for highbrow and lowbrow discussion of our world.

  • Fun Stuff! Who wants to read a boring blog? I don't, and I sure don't want to write one. Hopefully this will be an entertaining place for Richmond Shakespeare's friends, fans, and family to visit a couple times a week for updates and discussion.

So what it really boils down to is this: Big things are in store for Richmond Shakespeare over the next weeks, months, and years as the company continues to grow and expand faster than we ever have. And we want the Richmond theatre community to be able to share in the experience. So here we are.

That's all for now. Come back for updates and for new features on the sidebar.

May the Bard be with you!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas, Ebenezer!

We closed A Christmas Carol for Two Actors yesterday afternoon, with a delightful audience; Julie Phillip's parents made it, and Dad was tapped to be Martha Cratchit. Delightful. Also seen were several longtime Hoodwinker fans (the official fanclub of alumni"Carol" actor Molly Hood, and first year "Mudgekins," a phrase I'm not sure they even yet knew.

I'd like to take a moment to thank our wonderful audiences for attending; it's for you that we work all year to create our art. Thank you, too, to all of Richmond Shakespeare's artists, staff and trustees for a year of tremendously hard work. From Doctor Faustus to a great summer festival and from Will Power to Youth Richmond to welcoming fantastic new additions like Kerry Hugins, (our new Bookkeeper, whom everyone absolutely loves) it's been a very busy year, indeed. In fact, even though the offices are closed this week, we're looking at posting a bit more of a roundup here as we close out 2007, so check back toward New Year's.

Until then, here are two shots from the closing weekend of "Carol," the first from Andrew and Karen Hamm's Christmas party: that's Julia Rigby, Patrick Bromley (The Temepst) and Frank Creasy (The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night), who will all be performing for RS this coming March in As You Like It, with Andrew directing. I'm absolutely thrilled, and very much looking forward to that show--many of you know it's very dear to me, and I can't imagine a more wonderful cast and director to take us into the forest of Arden.

First up, though, is Measure for Measure, part of the Acts of Faith series of professional theatre all across Richmond, and I'm quite pleased to announce here that Julie Phillips will also be performing in Measure, making three in a row for this tremendous actor. That's Julie, below, with yours truly, enjoying a little well-earned holiday cheer at Penny Lane Pub, across 5th street from our Chapel theatre at 2nd Presbyterian. Julie is simply amazing. It's been my absolute joy to work with her, and I'm very grateful for the chance. She's smart, incredibly organized, and one of the warmest people I've ever met. Do come see her in Measure, (It opens Feb 7), after which I promise, she can have a little more than one week's downtime between projects.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and God bless us, every one.


Now Playing: "A Christmas Carol for Two Actors"

In case you didn't know, the Richmond Shakespeare Theatre is now presenting A Christmas Carol for Two Actors.

Check out the beautiful poster design by Jamin Hoyle, who has done all of the poster art for the Richmond Shakespeare Theatre since Fall 2006.

The script is from Dickens' novel, adapted by Grant Mudge and Cynde Liffick and performed by Grant and the amazing Julie Phillips. Grant, of course, is our Artistic Director, and Julie has held several positions with the company, as Master of Verse for Doctor Faustus and The Tempest, box office manager last year, and multiple roles in Richard II.

It's a really special show, as full of warmth and spirit as all your memories of A Christmas Carol are, and wonderfully acted by Grant (Scrooge) and Julie (pretty much everyone else). If you think you've seen this show before, think again. This is Julie's first year playing the parts, and she's a very different presence than the previous (wonderful) performances from Cynde, Molly Hood, and Jennie Meharg. I'm especially fond of her facial expressions as the Ghost of Christmas Past listens to Scrooge's vacillations in the bedroom, and her character voice work is spectacular. I've known Julie for a few years now, and she's one of my favorite theatre artists in the world, absolutely one of Richmond's best. Grant is pretty darn fantastic, as usual, as well.

The show plays Thursday through Friday nights at 8:00 and Sunday afternoons (except December 9) at 2:30. We perform in the chapel at Second Presbyterian Church, 5 N. 5th Street, just down the block from Penny Lane Pub. (Mmmm, Penny Lane Pub!)

Come early on Friday and Saturday nights and join the Christmas carol sing-along beginning at 7:40, led by yours truly (Andrew).

Tickets are available at or by calling 1-866-BARD-TIX (1-866-227-3849). $24 for adults and $13 for students and seniors.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Picture of the Week: December 20, 2007

Yes, we do indeed take requests:

Photo by Eric Dobbs.

The inestimable Jacquie O'Connor as Mistress Quickly in last summer's Henry IV, Part 1. If I may say so, this was among the best productions Richmond Shakespeare has ever produced, if not the best ever. (Shrew was pretty awesome, as was the 2005 five actor Midsummer.) It was also an unusually photogenic production, so expect to see more pictures of it.

We're fortunate to have Henry director James Alexander Bond returning in a couple weeks to direct Measure for Measure, our 2008 Acts of Faith show. This will be my second time working with James after Fall 2006's Julius Caesar, and he is one of my favorite directors in the world to work with.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Picture of the Week: December 18, 2007

Here's one of my all-time favorites from the Richmond Shakespeare archive:

Photo by Eric Dobbs.

I miss Foster and Susan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Drew Vidal's Contemporary Violence Workshop

Tuesday night's Contemporary Stage Violence workshop with the amazing Drew Vidal was a 150-minute triumph of hugging, grasping, pushing, pulling, crawling, leaping, smashing, sweating, shirt-stealing action. Rather than try to describe such physical goings-on, I thought I'd just post some pictures to show you what you missed!

After an evening of instruction and exploration, the participants split into pairs to create and choreograph their own pieces of stage violence, little plays all by themselves. I filmed the results:

Thanks so much to Drew for teaching, and to Andy, Daniel, Jacquie, Karen, Lelia, and Ronnie for their enthusiastic participation.

Next up on January 15 is another night of physical acting with David Hall, all the way from England. Check this space for details soon!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Picture of the Week: December 11, 2007

Maybe "Picture of the Week" is a better idea than "of the Day." Don't be surprised if it's more or less frequent; I'm pretty much just going to slap up one of my favorite pictures from the Richmond Shakespeare vault whenever it occurs to me. If it's been a while, and you haven't seen one, let me know. Or if you have requests, like "How about one of those great pictures of Foster Solomon and Susan Sanford in The Taming of the Shrew?"

Today's pic comes from the famous "Girls Gonne Wilde" action of Twelfth Night, and features Frank Creasy (left) as Sir Toby Belch, and Dave White (right) as Sir Andrew Ague-Cheek. Photo by Eric Dobbs.

Fans of Dave and Frank, two of my favorite actors, will be glad to hear that they will both be gracing our stage in the coming months; Dave as the Duke in Measure for Measure opening February 7, and Frank as Jacques in As You Like It opening March 27.

"A Christmas Carol" Matinee and Lack of Reviews

Grant and Julie performed A Christmas Carol for Two Actors for a matinee audience of about 120 students, teachers, and parents from the Steward School and Goochland Middle School. Those who arrived early got some very personal interaction with the pianist (me) and the chance to make Christmas caol requests. Some of them even got to play percussion on "Little Drummer Boy," a song I only do when there are kids to play drums.
It was an unusual experience to perform for so many people in such a large space. This version of A Christmas Carol is very intimate in its two-actor, highly interactive format, and it was a bit unusual for the actors to adapt to a back row 10 rows back instead of our normal four or five.

We have had the misfortune this year of being told by local media that they would not be reviewing this show because "they'd reviewed the show before." I guess I can understand how people who aren't theatre practitioners wouldn't necessarily understand that a repeat mounting of the same script will yield different results in a different year. But I have a two-fold response to that; first, that The Syringa Tree certainly merited two reviews for two productions with the same actor and most or all of the same staff, and second, that half of the cast of A Christmas Carol is new, creating a very different production.

It also strikes me as the height of ridiculousness that Grant was listed as one of Style Weekly's "Arts 25" in an article that focused largely on what a great gift to the city this adaptation of A Christmas Carol is, but then both major media outlets choose to disregard the show just three months later.

Regardless, the show is perhaps the most wonderful and magical it has ever been this year, with Julie Phillips bringing energy I've seldom seen to the show. Here are a few pictures from yesterday's matinee:
Bob Cratchit endeavors to warm himself by the heat of a candle.
The ghost of Marley disappeares into the mist.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
The Ghost of Christmas Present
The Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come

"Scrooge went to church!"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Picture of the Day: December 9, 2007

Okay, it's not like I'm going to put up a new picture every day, but "picture of the Day" seemed like a good title, and I just wanted an excuse to post this one:

Tony Foley (L) and Matt Polson in rehearsal for The Taming of the Shrew, 2006.

Ah, rehearsal. A time for exploration, to really dig into the deep ideas that Shakespeare was trying to convey...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Education Department: December 2007

Ever willing to put my two cents in, I would also like to welcome you to the blogspot.

I'm the Director of Education, and not to be left out of the strange name category, it's Cynde Liffick (and it's pronounced just like Cindy).

In my world, there are a couple of exciting things coming up:

1) A performance of six 8-year-old players in the Cary Elementary afterschool program on Tuesday, Dec 11 at about 7:00 PM. (It's a PTA meeting so absolute times are out). They will be performing the first Mechanicals' scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream and I predict they will be wonderful!

2) It's not strictly holiday themed, but if you're looking for something to occupy your children between the time they leave school and the weekend, have no fear, Shakespeare is here! We still have some slots open for the Mini Mid-Winter Shakespeare Camp for 8-14-year-olds. It will be held here at Tabernacle Baptist Church (where our offices are housed) on the corner of Grove and Meadow in the Fan. The fledgling players will meet from 1:00-4:00 PM on Dec 19-21, and will stage a performance on Dec 21 at 3:30. The subject? That ever-so-cheery fare of Shakespeare's death scene(s)! So there will be some swords and poison involved. Call 232-4000 to find out how to join!

Finally some suggestions on holiday treats to watch :If you can find it, watch A Midwinter's Tale, directed by Kenneth Branagh. It's a black and white gem, not only for the in jokes for theatre people (especially for British theatre), but for me it encapsulates the heart of why I'm in this profession and what's important to me about it. Also the cameos by Joan Collins, Edward Jewison and that actress who was in Absolutely Fabulous (the TV series). I can never remember her name. She does an atrocious Texas accent, but by this point in the movie, I didn't care.

Oh - and it takes place at Christmas.

The second is NOT in the spirit of Christmas--unless it's the Grinch x 1000--but I am SO EXCITED about Sweeney Todd, the movie. All the preview reviews have been great, with the caveat that there might be too much blood for people. Duh, it's Sweeney Todd.

December Workshop: "Contemporary Stage Violence" with Drew Vidal

Contemporary Stage Violence
with Drew Vidal
Tuesday, December 11, 7:00-9:30 PM. $20

This class will offer both beginning and experienced actors an opportunity to learn hands-on how contemporary violence is created onstage. As the focus will be on contemporary theatre, participants will be working unarmed and untrained. In addition to learning techniques for performing stage violence safely, participants will take away a unique approach to choreographing their own stage fights.

Instructor Drew Vidal has worked extensively as an actor and fight choreographer in Chicago, Richmond, and Washington D.C. Drew choreographed the combat for the Richmond Shakespeare Festival's acclaimed production of Henry IV, Part 1 last summer. His work can be seen in Washington D.C. all season long at the Shakespeare Theatre's productions of The Taming of the Shrew, Tamburlaine, and Edward II.

Participants should be attired in clothes that do not restrain or hide movement, with soft-soled shoes not worn outside. Any jewelry should be left at home, and contacts worn or glasses fastened.

15 students maximum. High school age and older. Cost: $20.

Richmond Shakespeare’s Training Department is dedicated to enriching Central Virginia’s theatre community by providing affordable, topical training in the theatre arts that is both accessible to beginners and useful to professionals.

All classes and workshops are held at Second Presbyterian Church (5 N. 5th Street).

Participants should bring a bottle of water and dress for moderate physical activity.

Call Andrew Hamm at 804-232-4000 or email to make your reservation!