Thursday, December 17, 2009

Othello Auditions

Othello - Auditions

Auditions by appointment for Richmond Shakespeare and African American Repertory Theatre co-production of Othello, the Moor of Venice will be held from 6:00-9:00PM on Wednesday, December 23 and Monday December 28 from 6:00-9:00pm at the company's new main offices, 1801 E. Cary St. (One block east of Bottom's Up Pizza)   Free Parking is immediately adjacent to the building; offices are on the first floor.

Director Jamie Rees seeks 10 men and 3 women. Experience with Shakespeare is a plus. You will be asked to perform a memorized 60-second monologue.   It's best to use one you know very well, and can play with adjustments.    Jeffrey Cole (Hamlet '08 and '09, Henry IV.1 and Henry V [The History Cycle] is pre-cast in the role of Iago.

All ethnicities are strongly encouraged to audition.

An appointment is required. Please call 804-232-4000, e-mail at or direct-msg via Twitter: RichmondShakes.   Performers paid. Some academic internships available.  A list of roles is available on the RS Facebook Fanpage.

Rehearsals will begin on Monday, January 4 and the run will be from February 11 - March 14,    in the exciting new Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond CenterStage.

 Othello: Male, 30s-40's
Cassio – Male, 20s
Roderigo – Male, 20's
Brabantio – Male, 40-60
Duke – Male, 40-60
Montano – Male, 40-60

And about five other male roles that are not age-specific

Desdemona – Female, 18-25
Emilia – Female, 25-40
Bianca – Female, 20-30's



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ebenezer Scrooge Rides Again

It's that time of year again, amazingly. For the twelfth consecutive year, I'll have the pleasure of sharing Charles Dickens' incredibly rich language and moving story about the miser in us all. Our adaptation is called A Christmas Carol for Two Actors, and this year, after first performing the piece with me in 2007, Julie Phillips returns to the production. Molly Hood returns too, this time to direct.

Dickens' prodigious gifts for producing text that also sounds simply gorgeous certainly echo those of Shakespeare, and "Carol" is one of the best examples. The novella was first adapted for the stage almost immediately after publication in 1843, and we're delighted to revive its wonderful sounds. It begins with one miser, seemingly without a single redemptive quality.
We've learned that of the three (3) public performances, the first, 12/7 is already sold out.
The shows are on Monday evenings this year, Dec 7/14/21.
Showtimes are still 8pm as the show is under 70 mins. Tickets are available at, and at all Ukrop's, Macy's, at the CenterStage box ofc (M-F 11-4 and 2 hrs before each show), and by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I’ve been lax on these posts, but several of you have been kind enough to prod me with very kind words to return to them. For a guy who loves language, last night’s play was a great excuse…so, first, I'll go back to Souvenir, from the Hanover Tavern, then switch to B'Dales' other venue, Willow Lawn, and write about 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Making indellible impressions in both was Debra Wagoner. I first saw Debra Wagoner as Cinderella at Swift Creek Mill Playhouse, in a show I've never forgotten, except for the date. Debra isn't old enough for this to be true, but it may very well have been during my college years.
At that time, it would've been impossible for me to have less knowledge of Richmond's regional theatres. I knew TheatreVA (now six years gone), Theatre IV (Bruce Miller was my first director in town, guest-directing Wait Until Dark at the University of Richmond in the autumn of 1988); Swift Creek Mill was a itself distant fairy tale of a place, beside a rushing river dam. It may have been in 1995 or 6, well after college. Hopefully someone will remind me? There may have been a re-mount…

I do remember climbing the stairs to the theatre amid the buzz of performance night excitement. I remember much of the show, from Paul Deis and Larry Cook as dueling princes/wolves, to pondering what seemed then an enormously wide stage with little vertical clearance: the enormous 'hand' of the giant 'falling' out from the wings onto the stage was priceless. Other Richmond fav's were also in that cast, including Robyn O'Neill and Robin Arthur—the latter of whom was in attendance tonight at Souvenir. I hope people will comment and list others who were in that production. More, I recall being brought that night into Stephen Sondheim's wonderfully magical world of fairytales, themselves conveyed into the modern mindset, the remarkable Into the Woods.

Debra is a pro, a marvelous comic actor, and tremendous at the art of theatrical story. Her final turn of the head in the show, singing Ave Maria as the lights fade was an inspiration, a moving moment--a master of the craft.

I won't bother describing characters and plot. If you've seen it, you know. Jonathan Spivey first came to my attention after seeing his performances at my alma mater, the University of Richmond. He's too young to have been in the TheatreIV/UR collaboration of Secret Service, which included Julie Amos Waugh, Dan Stackhouse and of course, Jack Parrish. But I recalled skill with text, comedic dexterity, and a maturity beyond his years---all qualities he has honed into a splendid professional career. (Might it have been Mother Courage?)

He wasn't too young for RS to cast him soon thereafter, though, in The Merchant of Venice in 2004. I'm glad to see him return to town. While here, Jonathan was hilarious as Thurio in our very first Second Tuesdays Staged Reading at CenterStage, a performance of Two Gentlemen of Verona.

In Souvenir, Jonathan also spent much of the evening actually accompanying Debra. His character is so solid you barely notice that he's working his pinkies off on the keys. It was very satisfying.

Congrats to both, as well as director John Glenn, Stage Manager Joe Pabst, and the design team on Souvenir, whose set was really outstanding: elegant, simple, and inventive---as well as fun to light. They were, in no particular order: Sue Griffin on Costumes, Jenn Rush on Wigs, Ted Macklin on Sound, Joe Lavigne on the marvelous set, and lighting design by the director. John's tenure in Richmond theatre (both at B'Dale and Theatre IV) pretty much predates my own, but I'm glad to see him back; his work here is delightful.

Finally, a word on musical direction—R.L. Rowsey and Debra did an astounding job crafting this "fantasia" on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins. The impossible task of performing so many pieces so very far out of tune, (or musicianship or rhythm) may sound easy (does it?)---but it's precisely done, and always hilarious--sometimes painful, but always with a delightful payoff. And there's that final moment---payoff indeed.

If I had known it was a musical about, and performed by, a character who couldn't sing, or if I'd read the reviews, I would most likely have busied myself in work and missed the show. After several birds chirped "go see it," (and once we closed Much Ado) I finally listened, and I was very glad that I did.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Much Ado About Shining Boleros

We're into the final performance weekend of Much Ado About Nothing, our inaugural show in the Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond CenterStage, and I'll make no bones about it: I think you should see this show. Come see the new venue, come see how we've begun to make use of its outstanding acoustics, new lighting and sound equipment and amenities. The bar will be open. Tickets are $15, $26, and $38.

That said, it's only one night of three. For your Friday, Saturday or Sunday afternoon, if I can make a recommendation for two not spent watching Much Ado, let me give a shout out to Boleros for the Disenchanted at Barksdale Theatre's Willow Lawn space and Henley Street Theatre's The Shining City.

I saw Shining City on the same night as Barksdale's Bruce Miller, and he's done an excellent job summing up the night, here. I was absolutely thrilled by Joe Inscoe's performance, as always, and pleased with everyone else. It's a big step up for Henley and one that Richmond should embrace.

However, I will admit to just thoroughly loving Boleros for the Disenchanted at Barksdale. I cared about its characters far more deeply than I thought possible; I felt connected to the story, and was delighted by its structure, its terrific comedy (with beauty, laughter, sadness and terrific language all thrown in), and its flawless execution. Kudos to Rick Brandt, Jason Winebarger and the entire crew at Willow Lawn. Bruce Miller's direction is spot-on, some of his best. There's a nifty video interview on the B'dale website here.

However, it's Bruce's casting here that has Boleros shining so strongly. He talks about the casting in the video; the actors are excellent. Rivera's play is in wonderful hands, and this love story to his parents and to the island of Puerto Rico itself is a real treat for theatergoers. I loved it.

There is an initial sample of the Latin Ballet of VA, dancing boleros at the top of the show and again at intermission---led by the exquisite Ana Ines King. She is a tremendous athlete, a terrific dancer, producer and an elegant lady. Virginia is desperately lucky to have her residing in our midst.

So, tonight, come see Much Ado. Tomorrow and Sunday? Go see Shining City or Boleros for the Disenchanted.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Our Play is Preffered: Best Ensemble

Last night, Richmond Shakespeare was proud to sit with the theatre community of greater Richmond and celebrate the achievements of our colleagues. We were also honored with three nominations, including Rebecca Cairns and Annie Hoskins--nominated again for Best Costume an award they won last year.

This year we had two award-winners: a special recognition for Vanessa Passini's terrific fight work in Henry V [The History Cycle], and the company of actors from A Midsummer Night's Dream, who won as a cast for Best Ensemble. Those actors are Sandra Clayton, Brandon Crowder, Kerry McGee, Stacie Rearden Hall and Adam Mincks.

This recognition in particular was satisfying for me, as we set out many years ago to craft a company in which the collective efforts of actors, designers, directors, musicians and volunteers all work together; perhaps more so than any other, the theatre is a collaborative art form.

I first saw the five-actor format (yes 5) of performing William Shakespeare in the early 1990's at the University of Richmond: a program called Actors from the London Stage. Five gifted players create all the roles in a given Shakespeare. My first experience was with As You Like It, which was honored last year in several categories. It's a thrilling challenge, to craft more than one role, often alternating between them onstage—few challenges in the acting world can match it (solo shows of 'full commitment' come to mind), and I'm very grateful these lovely actors were so recognized.

They, and the supporting team behind them were indeed the best ensemble: Andrew Ham, Bryan Laubenthal, Jake Allard, Holly Harris, Holly Lucas, Richard Moxley, David White and J. David White, Rebecca Cairns, Annie Hoskins, Flora Vassar. Congratulations to each and all.

Not a word of me. All that I will tell you is that the duke hath dined. Get your apparel together, good strings to your beards, new ribbons to your pumps. Meet presently at the palace. Every man look o'er his part. For the short and the long is, our play is preferred.

Actor and director "Jack" Parrish / Times-Dispatch

Actor and director John Linwood "Jack" Parrish Jr. dies Richmond Times-Dispatch

Shared via AddThis

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jack Parrish

All of us in the Richmond Theatre community were saddened to learn of today's passing of Jack Parrish, longtime Richmond actor, director, and friend. Jack fought a lengthy battle with cancer, and reportedly went into hospice very recently and died this afternoon. He will be missed.

Tonight at 8:30, Richmond Shakespeare and CenterStage dimmed the big marquee at 6th & Grace and dedicated this evening's performance to Jack. It was quite a sight. We heard, via Facebook, that Sycamore Rouge gave Jack a special intermission curtain call. We're sure that other tributes will surely follow, and will pass on any related info as it comes available. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kathy and Clay Parrish--I and many others are holding you in mind and heart tonight.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Second Tuesdays Staged Reading Series

Each Second Tuesday between Oct-May.

Produced by Liz Blake.

October 13 - Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Jamie Rees
November 10 - Two Noble Kinsmen, directed by Rebecca Jones
December 8 - A Lion in Winter, by James Goldman, directed by 'Rick Gray, featuring Larry Gard and Joy Williams
January 12 - Volpone by Ben Jonson, dir. by Jeff Cole
February 9 - Galathea by John Lyly, dir. by Grant Mudge
March 9 - Taming of the Shrew, dir. by Molly Hood
April 13 - Edward III [The History Cycle] dir. by Julie Phillips
May 11 - Love's Labors Lost, director TBA

Monday, October 5, 2009

Richmond Shakespeare Opens Gottwald Playhouse

We knew opening night was approaching quickly when the company's name and that of the play went up in lights on the big marquee.

On Saturday night, Richmond Shakespeare entered its second quarter-century.

By all accounts it was a sparkling, delightful evening, filled with love, warmth, hugs and laughter. Our new home, The Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond CenterStage, will be shared by several small companies including our dear friends at African American Repertory Theatre, and we couldn't be more delighted with it. Situated on the east half of the block, in the part of the building called Dorothy Pauley Square (facing Grace Street and bounded by 6th and 7th) the Gottwald Playhouse is an intimate space—seating under 200 and offering outstanding acoustics: I've often told the story of the first music rehearsal in which James Wingo, our composer for Much Ado About Nothing, brought his guitar into the space and began to play: I shushed everyone so we could hear—and he stopped! ("No, you—please, keep playing!") We began to realize that the designers and architects of the Gottwald have created a phenomenal space for sound, be it the spoken word of Shakespeare, a jazz band or a string quartet. We felt as if we were seated inside the sound chamber of that guitar. It was amazing; I hope you'll come and hear a play in this remarkable venue.

"How much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping!" Leonato, Much Ado I.i

For me, last night was a whirlwind, beginning with final adjustments and warm-ups with the actors. On opening night there is a kind of lap-running that every director (and producer) reading this will immediately recognize. Delivering final notes, cards or gifts are all part of the process—perhaps a final talk to the actors (More volume please, crisper, less air please—in short: louder/faster/funnier); added to this are greeting guests, attending to opening night receptions and guest lists, and all the challenges of a new box office system.

I'm certainly not complaining—I love this busy time, as the director's work subsides and the acting and technical company take the show and welcome the audience into the world of the play.

The cast gave their best performance to date, winning huge laughs and especially at Dogberry's arrivals and exits—I would argue Shakespeare intended—ovations of applause. The audience loved our clowns, and Bob Jones' hilarious performance in this role, and his work with his fellow actors, (especially his fellow officer Verges, played by the adorable Thomas Cunningham) is a show-stealer, and should not be missed. I absolutely love the entire cast---every single performer has moments to shine; each actor takes Shakespeare's outstanding material and really delves into its truths and resonances. They plumb the darkest places and explore the most joyous just as ardently. Each is also dearly likeable; we've had a marvelous time preparing the production.

Rebecca Cairns and Annie Hoskins have outdone themselves yet again, creating an entire world of costumes. It's my professional goal to get these ladies a proper costume shop—can you imagine what they'll create when they don't have to work in a spare bedroom and their dining room? I'm delighted with the entire design team---the production matches our RS aesthetic precisely: focus on the actor's relationship to the audience, highlighting and serving but not overwhelming the story created on stage. It's a tough balance to execute with style, and they certainly have succeeded. Thanks to all of them.

Other treats on opening night included our new concessions lounge, which boasted cappuccinos, pumpkin cookies (executive sampling was requried), and other edibles, wines, beers and soft drinks. Our guests were of course welcome to take these into the theatre with them.

I'm grateful also to the SMG staff for handling more folks than we anticipated at the post-show reception. The exquisite donor lounge is a perfect venue for post-show celebrations. I look forward to making use of it often. Photographs of the event abound on Facebook---it seemed the perfect end to a joyous and thrilling opening. It was exhausting, but well worth the effort and the long wait for our new home.

Much Ado About Nothing runs only through October 25…and given the buzz our final weeks usually sell out, so I would encourage you to join us this week or next. Come downtown for the Folk Festival and just saunter up 6th street to Richmond CenterStage

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Goodbye to the Olde | Style Weekly

Goodbye to the Olde

Richmond Shakespeare gets tricked out at the Gottwald Playhouse.

by Mary Burrus
Moving in: Grant Mudge, artistic director of Richmond Shakespeare, inside the flexible Gottwald Playhouse. Photo by Eric Dobbs

Four hundred years ago this fall, William Shakespeare moved his players into the Blackfriars Theatre, its first indoor home. Richmond Shakespeare repeats that exercise in September by moving into its first indoor space built specifically for live performance.

Its new residence in the Gottwald Playhouse at CenterStage — along with the African American Repertory Theatre — takes the 25-year-old company from a comfortable but technically unsophisticated home to a state-of-the-art, tricked-out pad in the new downtown venue. That means new toys and production possibilities.

Richmond Shakespeare has long touted its Spartan production style as being much the way Shakespeare would have produced plays rather than as a limit imposed by performance space. Traditionally there’s been no formal set, just a few props such as a throne for the random king and uniform lighting so the audience can be better incorporated into the action.

Gottwald, however, provides the opportunity to expand technical applications. Artistic Director Grant Mudge assures that having access to a higher level of technical capability won’t alter the artistic philosophy of the company. “Moving into the Gottwald enhances it,” he says. “We will continue to make use of Shakespeare’s traditions in a modern setting using only key set pieces to create a different imaginary look, but will have the advantages of enhanced sound and lighting for special effects.”

During a recent tour of the playhouse, Mudge seems more excited about the abilities of the theater to morph into different staging possibilities than its high-tech capabilities — such as the 20 individually moving panels in the floor at the center of the space. “We have always been able to change the seating configurations at Second Presbyterian,” he says, “but in this space we can do so much more to enhance the personal way we like to engage our audiences. By lowering these panels we can create a thrust stage, a pit — or by leaving them floor-level, [offer] a different type of experience.”

The public will get a taste of how Richmond Shakespeare will play with the new space in October with the opening of Shakespeare’s most lively comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Award Nominations Announced

Congratulations to Richmond Shakespeare artists! But before I list the nominations, let me give a special shout to Vanessa Passini. Selected for an award before the event even takes place, Ms. Passini has won an award for outstanding Fight Choreography to Vanessa Passini for her work on Richmond Shakespeare's Henry V [The History Cycle].

We're also nominated in a new category, "Best Ensemble Acting" for which I'm delighted to report that the cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream has very rightly been recognized. They should be nominated just for enduring emotional rainouts.

Finally, our exquisite costumers, Rebecca Cairns and Anne Hoskins are nominated for their truly outstanding work, also on Henry V [The History Cycle]. I always feel like I hand these two ladies a pocketful of lint for supplies and they return with the most gorgeous costumes a director could hope for. They are the 2008 winners in the same category; I couldn't be more pleased that their work is receiving recognition again.

One can always gripe and moan about artists not nominated (Joe Carlson's stunning Laertes comes to mind! as does James Bond's marvelous direction on Henry V--so there's mine!) but I want to take a moment to thank the critics as they attend, ponder, enjoy, endure, and evaluate the productions that make up our theatrical culture. They do it for very little compensation--sometimes none, I'll wager---factoring in the gas to see Sycamore Rouge or Swift Creek Mill (not far, but it adds up), and I couldn't be more pleased that the success of last year's ceremony has led to year #2.

Let me go on record right here to invite the RTCC awards for year #3 to Richmond's newest performing arts venue, Richmond CenterStage.

-Grant Mudge

Friday, July 31, 2009


Director: Grant Mudge
Tuesday and Wednesday, August 4th and 5th, 630-930pm, at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1925 Grove Avenue. (at Meadow & Grove)

Auditions for Much Ado About Nothing, the inaugural production in the Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond CenterStage, will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, August 4 and 5, from 630-930pm in the Richmond Shakespeare offices, located at 1925 Grove Avenue. Entry is off the alley behind Tabernacle Baptist Church. Director Grant Mudge seeks 13 men and 4 women, ages 20-70. Experience with Shakespeare is required. Those auditioning will be asked to present a monologue (under 2 mins) and to read from the script. An appointment is required. Please call 804-232-4000, e-mail at or direct-msg via Twitter: RichmondShakes. Performers paid. Some academic internships available.

Rehearsals begin August 24. Previews start October 1, and the show will run Thurs-Sun from Oct 3-25. (Performances are Ths-Sat at 8pm and Sundays at 2:30pm, with some weekday matinees.)

List of primary roles
1. Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon
2. Benedick
3. Beatrice, Niece of Leonato
4. Hero, Daughter of Leonato
5. Leonato, Duke of Messina
6. Antonio, his brother
7. Balthasar
8. Claudio
9. Conrade
10. Borrachio
11. Don John, Bastard Brother of Don Pedro
12. Margaret
13. Ursula
14. Friar Francis
15. Verges
16. Sexton
17. Dogberry, a Constable

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Too Like the Lightning

After thirteen years, you'd think I'd get accustomed to rainouts. On average, we lose three (3) performances per summer. At that rate, for 2009, we're officially done with 'em. Someone please tell the weather deities.

That said, I love all the weather references in the first 20 minutes of Midsummer, besides "I will move storms;" there's
"Brief as the lightning in the collied night
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth
And ere a man hath power to say 'Behold!'
The jaws of darkness do devour it up,"
and, upon being asked why her chekk is so pale, Helena responds, "Belike for want of rain(!), which I could well beteem them from the tempest of my eyes!" Will's was an open-air playhouse---these lines can't be mere coincidence; they help bond us together----actors and audience in one experience. Magic.

We'll be back for more tonight.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Timeless 'Hamlet' has modern feel

Published: July 19, 2009

Like your "Hamlet" to have a colloquial, of-the-moment feel? The revamped Richmond Shakespeare production at Agecroft Hall has a Hamlet whose manner is so contemporary, you expect at any moment to see him texting Horatio.

There's no effort here to change the period of the tragedy, which is probably the 17th century, but Becky Willet's lovely costumes are not tied to any particular age. What's notable is the 21st-century sensibility -- lots of sarcasm and heavy irony in the line readings, and Jeff Cole's thoroughly extroverted Hamlet, with many modern mannerisms.

Grant Mudge directed both this and last fall's indoor-season version of the tragedy, and there are some differences. Jay Banks' Horatio is just as intelligent as Andrew Hamm's, but he's not the staunch friend Hamm's was. There's less romance and more insanity between Cole and his Ophelia, Liz Blake. And the production works better overall because of the more conventional thrust stage at Agecroft; Mudge can move his actors naturally, without the constraints of the long rectangle he had for a stage in the fall.

All the best elements of the production remain: high-quality spoken verse (Rebecca Jones was text and verse consultant), Blake's touching vulnerability, Cole's unflagging intensity. Timothy Saukiavicus is an even more craven Claudius than he was before, and Joseph Anthony Carlson is magnetic as Laertes -- his execution of Vanessa Passini's fabulous fight choreography includes a full-out leap that left audience members gasping.
A three-piece ensemble provides lovely background music, and the summer stage makes possible some effective stagecraft, like the entrance of Ophelia on her bier, hauntingly lit by designer J. David White.

In the customary Richmond Shakespeare style, 11 actors play 22 roles. But most of the principals play only one apiece, which leaves Katie Ford, 'Rick Gray, Shirley Kagan and LaSean Green playing 13 parts, and they do admirable work.

Susan Haubenstock is a freelance writer and editor based in Henrico County. Contact her at

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Friday, July 17, 2009

'Midsummer' Gets Final Added Performance

We had hardly communicated the addition of July 29 when it became clear it well sell out---in less than five days, there are now only two (count ‘em, 2) remaining seats for that Wednesday added show.

As such, I’m pleased to announce a final additional night (once it’s gone, folks, there will be no more) of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Tuesday, July 28, 2009. Visit the website below and click on tickets---before someone else grabs yours.

Catch the fastest-selling show in town….before it’s gone.

Grant Mudge
Artistic Director
Richmond Shakespeare
804-232-4000 Admin
804-232-4400 Fax

NOW OPEN! – the 2009 Richmond Shakespeare Festival
THRU JUN28.09 – Henry V [The History Cycle]
JUL2-12.09 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Seven Shows Only!)
JUL16-AUG2.09 - Hamlet

Monday, July 13, 2009

Richmond CenterStage - Performing Arts Center

Grant Mudge
9:09am Jul 13th
Richmond CenterStage - Performing Arts Center

Checkout CenterStage on Facebook!

Grant has shared a link with you. To view it or to reply to the message, follow this link:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"RS has done [Henry V] proud..a fine evening of entertainment." Review, STYLEWeekly

King Me

Richmond Shakespeare’s “Henry V” proves sequels can improve on the originals. by Mary Burruss

Princess Katherine (Sarah Jamillah Johnson) is wooed by Henry (Phillip James Brown) and his authentic English accent in “Henry V.” Photo by Bruce Parker

Anglophiles, history buffs and drama nerds rejoice! It is summer and the long-awaited Richmond Shakespeare production of “Henry V” has opened. For those of you not listed in the aforementioned categories of the anticipatory, the excitement is akin to the release of the next “Harry Potter” or “Twilight.” But unlike some sequels, this production is wonderful.

“Henry V,” the fourth installment of Shakespeare’s tetralogy chronicling the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V, is the best of the four and Richmond Shakespeare has done it proud. Director James Alexander Bond has selected a stellar cast of local actors and directed deftly around the central figure, played by London-based actor Phillip James Brown, who returns to Richmond for the third summer to take his crown as King Henry (the sovereign formerly known as Prince Hal). The actors are planets that revolve around Brown’s handsome sun. He makes as fine a warrior motivating his troops in the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech as he makes a nervous beau courting Princess Katherine.

In sharp contrast to Brown’s regal Henry is Bob Jones’ equally savvy incarnation of the comedic Captain Fluellen. Jones makes the larger-than-life character believable and multifaceted, while including wild gestures and a hilarious overblown Welsh accent, making Shakespeare’s jibe on Welshmen all the funnier.

Joseph Carlson masters his portrayal of Pistol this season, deftly executing comic bits and pouncing about the stage in Vanessa Passini’s excellently choreographed fight scenes. He has matured as an actor in the past year, turning last year’s great performance into an outstanding one this season.

This play has something for everyone: humor, battle scenes, romance and a winning underdog. “Henry V” is a fine evening of entertainment for anyone who can stay up past 10:30. “Henry V” plays June 11- 28, Thursday-Sunday at 8 p.m. at Agecroft Hall. Tickets are $13-$25. Visit or call 866-BARD-TIX.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"The Peak Theatrical Experience in Richmond Is Back" Henry V Review, Richmond Times Dispatch

‘Henry V’ ends cycle on passionate, comedic note

Theater review
At: Agecroft Hall, 4305 Sulgrave Road Through: June 28 Tickets: $25 (16 and under $13) Info: 866-BARDTIX

Published: June 15, 2009

The peak theatrical pleasure to be had in Richmond is back: summer Shakespeare at Agecroft Hall.

It's a happy mystery how hot, humid days can switch to cool evenings just as the Elizabethan verse gets going, but it seems to happen every time.
This season's opener is "Henry V," the culmination of three years pursuing the Henry cycle. James Alexander Bond has directed all three plays, and Phillip James Brown has played the younger Henry throughout, granting audiences a marvelous artistic continuity.

And again Bond, aided by Master of Verse Cynde Liffick, has brought us a rousing and gripping production, full of action (including Vanessa Passini's fight direction and Cecile Tuzii's movement coaching), passion and comedy.
The formerly roguish Prince Hal is now King Henry, and the English clergy are urging him to seize France as rightfully his. The French dauphin insults him, and Henry prepares for war.

There are combat scenes and interludes of diplomacy; there are remarkable moments when Henry goes incognito among his soldiers on the eve of battle. And there are stirring moments when Henry exhorts his troops -- "Once more unto the breach" and "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers."

Though there are comic and touching diversions, "Henry V" has no Falstaff, so Henry himself is the clear focus -- and Brown is powerful and magnetic enough to keep us riveted throughout. He shows just a few signs of the slacker he was; Brown is regal with a common touch. Wonderfully musical with the verse, he's also an inspiring leader, a steely judge, and a warm and awkward suitor in his final scene with the French princess.

Bond has balanced the production by emphasizing Shakespeare's varied comedic turns. The strongest of these is Bob Jones' Fluellen, the Welsh captain. Jones delights with his mastery of language and his unexpected physicality. Joseph Anthony Carlson, returning as Pistol, is a delightfully comic blusterer, and the pair of Phillip Reid and Thomas L. Cunningham as Bardolph and Nym amuse as well.

The cast of 19 performs 37 roles, with particularly strong supporting performances by Brandon Crowder, Nicholas Aliff, Tim Saukiavicus, Alan Sader, Joseph Sultani, Jamie Rees, Sarah Jamillah Johnson, Jeffrey Cole, Michael Hamilton and Jacqueline O'Connor. J. David White's lighting is dramatic, and the reliable Rebecca Cairns and Ann Hoskins contribute wonderfully detailed costumes.

This "Henry V" is a fully satisfying end to the saga.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

RTD PREVIEW: "The Bard is Back at Agecroft"

Shakespeare Festival kicks off with “Henry V”

Richmond Shakespeare Festival Productions: "Henry V" (tonight-June 28); "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (July 2-12); "Hamlet" (July 16-Aug. 2) Where: Agecroft Hall, 4305 Sulgrave Road. Gates open at 7 p.m., and the Festival Young Company entertains on the grounds; all performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets: or 1-866-227-3849

With a trio of productions this summer and only three more months until its new permanent indoor home, Richmond CenterStage, is ready, the folks at Richmond Shakespeare are understandably excited.

On his desk, Artistic Director Grant Mudge even has a mini version of the CenterStage countdown clock currently facing Broad Street.
But before that fall season launches -- it will mark the 25th year of Richmond Shakespeare -- its popular summer shows on the grounds of Agecroft Hall will commence tonight.

This season, the group is tackling "Henry V," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Hamlet," which Mudge is also directing.
Last year, "Henry IV, Part 2," was the centerpiece production. Mudge said the cycle of Shakespeare's histories will be completed by 2012.
"The stories are universal," he said of Shakespeare's ongoing appeal. "They're personal stories, personally told, and doing them at Agecroft really is something special. It's 500 years old and came from England, so we play in the courtyard just as Elizabethan actors would."

Starring in the role of King Henry in "Henry V" is London-born actor Phil Brown, who played Prince Hal the past two summers in "Henry IV, Part 1" and "Part 2."

Brown came to Richmond two years ago after being recruited by director James Bond -- who also is helming this year's "Henry" -- and the self-described "Shakespeare geek" said playing King Henry is tricky yet rewarding.

"When Shakespeare was writing 'Henry V,' one of his challenges was that he was writing about the king, the be all and end all of great kings. He had two tasks: to present the king in a way that wouldn't get him into trouble with Elizabeth and also to write a real human character facing real problems," Brown said last week.

"In 'Henry V,' the crown almost acts like a mask. The prince becomes the man, and the man has to deal with the responsibilities of the crown. In that respect, it's very complex, because you're trying to find where the voice is the king and where the voice is the prince and where to find the human balance."

Brown trained for three years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where he participated in many Shakespearean workouts.
"A good drama school training gives you the solid foundation, and every professional play you do after that, you learn more as you go along," said Brown, who, along with the rest of the cast, has been rehearsing the past five weeks, including rigorous fight scenes.

"Our choreographer, Vanessa [Passini], has been putting us all through our paces with sword drills," Brown said. "Hopefully, fingers crossed, the sword fighting will look quite cool."

Though Brown and his wife, Emily, plan to move back to New York at the end of the summer, he is still looking forward to CenterStage opening.
"Hopefully, once it's established, it's the kind of thing that breeds more art, essentially," he said.

But for the next couple of weeks, the only art Brown will be concentrating on his nightly portrayal of Henry.

"James [Bond, the director] says that Shakespeare is the most muscular form of theater," Brown said. "It kind of forces you to use your technique more than anything else. I believe if you can do Shakespeare well, you can do anything well."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mission Meeting May 23

Dear Friends,

It's time to get together!

Please join us on the afternoon of May 23, from 1-4pm.

If you're reading this, it's because Richmond Shakespeare holds special meaning for you. Now, we need your story, your input and your voice. We're in the same theatre together quite often-but we rarely get the chance to interact, to sit and talk to one another. As we launch our 25th Anniversary Season in a new $75 million dollar performing arts center, Richmond CenterStage , we wanted to hear from you! You're a part of that effort. So, consider this your call to action!

On May 23, from 1-4pm (this coming Saturday) Richmond Shakespeare will hold a Mission Meeting at Agecroft Hall . What's a Mission Meeting? It's a process we undertake from time to time, but never like this: we'll re-craft, re-write and re-dedicate the very mission of Richmond Shakespeare.

Please join me at Agecroft Hall for a gathering of all the many kinds of people touched by the work of this remarkable company over 24 years. From actors to interns and from students to Trustees, we'll gather to hear, to speak, and to write about what Richmond Shakespeare means to each of us.

You'll get a sneak peek inside CenterStage and hear a preview of the summer Richmond Shakespeare Festival 2009-you'll also get to meet Phil Brown, returning for year three to play the title role in Henry V [The History Cycle.]

The day will be facilitated by Vanessa Womack Easter. A Senior Consultant with the STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT GROUP, LLC., Easter brings 25 years of experience in business operations, marketing and administration management in both corporate and nonprofit environments, performing facilitation and training /development functions, as well as strategic advising and corporate marketing. She comes to us referred by the Center for Non-Profit Excellence. Look for a more detailed invitation very soon! Space is limited, so we'll ask you to register for the meeting now by e-mailing our offices at . Attending is free, and light refreshments will be provided.

Please join us!

Sincerely yours,

Grant Mudge
Artistic Director
Richmond Shakespeare
1-866-Bard-Tix Box Ofc
804-232-4000 Admin
804-232-4400 Fax

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Phil Brown, 2009

May 10 - Have you seen the 'countdown clock?' It faces Broad Street between 6th and 7th, hung on the construction trailers at Richmond CenterStage. All of us at Richmond Shakespeare are enormously excited about our new theatre---opening in very short time! In fact, I have a little miniature version of the clock on my desk and today, both of them read 124 Days.

In two days, on May 12, at 7:30pm we'll hold our last event of the indoor season at 2nd Presbyterian, a staged-reading of Cymbeline, about which you may already have heard. Daryl Clark Phillips (Falstaff '07 and '08) leads a stellar cast including Ray Bullock, Richard Koch, Vicki McCleod, David Janeski, Billy Christopher Maupin, Asher Nicholson, Brad Tuggle, Lucas Hall, Alan Sader (Exeter in Henry V), Ally Wepplo, and James Wingo. Cymbeline is directed by David White and produced by Liz Blake. Catch Liz herself in this summer's reprsise of Hamlet.

This fall (in four months!), Richmond Shakespeare will indeed move our indoor season to the new Gottwald Playhouse inside Richmond CenterStage. Look for an inaugural season announcement (it's also our 25th Year) right at the start of the summer Richmond Shakespeare Festival.

Those performances come first---we'll continue to bring great summer shows to marvelous Agecroft Hall, beginning this 12th annual festival with the performances we've all been waiting for: Phil Brown's Henry V and the return of Jeff Cole's Hamlet. Sandwiched in between, I'm happy to annouce another return--for a limited run--of Andrew Hamm's critically acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Just prior to the summer festival on Saturday, May 23, I invite you to our first public "Mission Meeting." We'll gather at Agecroft Hall, from 1-4pm, to re-craft, re-dedicate and help to re-write the mission of Richmond Shakespeare. To RSVP and to receive more information, e-mail us at Come be a part of charting our next 25 years.

Thank you for joining us on this adventure, and be sure to keep in touch! Call, write, and comment or e-mail me here. Of course, you can always just catch my arm at a performance of Richmond Shakespeare.


Grant Mudge
Artistic Director

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jackie Jones on 'Midsummer!'

Local and beloved actor Jackie Jones (also a baker of muchly sought goodies), saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream recently and sent this lovely e-mail:


Andrew Hamm's Dream cast IS a dream cast and

does the show in all its Shakespearean bawdiness.

Each of the cast portrays numerous characters to

definite distinction. This production really gives its

audience members the flavor of Shakespeare's

fun with words (be forewarned: no joke is left

unturned) without any of the stuffiness sometimes

used to cover it up! I'd say this would be great for

highschoolers, and middle-schoolers - and maybe

even precocious upper-elementary with the right

homework in advance. And there is original (and

traditional) music!

You’ve only five (5) chances left to catch it at

2nd Presbyterian’s perfectly Elizabethan chapel!

Richmond Shakespeare
804-232-4000 Admin
804-232-4400 Fax

APR16.09 to MAY10.09 – A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare

MAY12.09 - Cymbeline, by William Shakespeare (Staged Reading)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Style Weekly

Do you have your tickets yet?
Issue Date: April 22, 2009, Posted On: 4/21/2009

STYLE Weekly review of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' The cast of Richmond Shakespeareare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," at rest. Clockwise from top, it's Brandon Crowder, Stacie Rearden Hall, Adam Mincks, Kerry McGee and Sandra Clayton.

There was a moment during Richmond Shakespeareare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" when I literally could not stop laughing. Near the play's end, the sheer lunatic brilliance of director Andrew Hamm's off-kilter rendering of the Shakespeare classic reached such a fever pitch that I found myself lost in the sea of silliness. I would have been more embarrassed about my guffaws if there weren't several others in the audience doing the same thing.

Possibly the Bard's most endearingly romantic comedy, Midsummer's plot involves fairies, love potions, a man semitransformed into an ass, and quite a bit of mayhem. As if that were not enough, Hamm's inspired cast pushes every envelope available. Sensual interludes between lovers stray into serious PG-13 territory. Characters who are supposed to be bad actors are hilariously horrendous. Some of the physical comedy looks downright painful, thanks to fight choreography help by David White.

Ensemble members throw themselves into multiple roles with abandon. Brandon Crowder leads this rowdy band, effecting breakneck changes between the regal Duke of Athens to the almost aggressively swishy Flute and eliciting laughs with as little as a well-placed glance along the way. Adam Mincks chews the scenery ravenously as donkey-eared Bottom, who attracts the affection of Fairy Queen Titania (Stacie Rearden Hall) thanks to the juice of a magical flower administered by Puck (Kerry McGee). Hall's lusty looks are bracing while McGee is alternately fervent as the love-struck Hermia and delightfully impish as Puck. Sandra Clayton rounds out the crew ably with several small but vital bit parts.

It seems peckish to note that some of Shakespeare's lyrical language gets lost in modernisms such as "Sweet!" and "Awesome!" But Hamm makes up for it by inserting charming musical interludes into the action with a cast (particularly Hall) in spectacular voice. For a show not billed as a musical, this "Dream" sings. David Timberline

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" plays at the Second Presbyterian Church, 5 N. Fifth St., through May 10. Tickets are $13-$26. Call 1-866-BARD-TIX or visit

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zany Cast Makes 'Dream' a delight

Richmond Shakespeare’s season finale a fun one

Published: April 19, 2009

“A Midsummer Night's Dream," Richmond Shakespeare Theatre's final production of its indoor season under the direction of Andrew Hamm, roars delightfully into its raucous conclusion, which includes a play within a play and a wedding celebration.

There is something old (the play by William Shakespeare), something new (the cast and the indoor location at Second Presbyterian Church), something borrowed (costumes and props from previous "Dream" productions), and something . . . (well, there's got to be something blue in there somewhere).

With costumes and set kept to a bare minimum, the cast of five takes on 21 roles, resulting in effects and situations that might have surprised the Bard himself.

This "Dream" features a tight-knit and lovable ensemble. Some of the casting contrasts are startling and ingenious. Sandra Clayton is the elitist Egeus as well as the simple carpenter; Peter Quince, leader of the local community of actors, also known as the Mechanicals; Brandon Crowder is both the noble Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Francis Flute, the bellows mender who plays the role of Thisbe in the play-within-a-play.

And while it is not unusual for men to play women's roles in Elizabethan theater, Crowder's over-the-top Thisbe, dressed in a contemporary beauty queen evening gown and some killer black stilettos, leaves an indelible impression.

Kerry McGee gives Robin Starveling, the tailor member of the acting troupe, a round-shouldered, slumped posture, slow movements and delayed reactions that suggest poor Starveling may have either mental or chemically induced challenges.

The cast is rounded out by Stacie Rearden Hall, who plays Demetrius's lover Helena as well as three other roles, and Adam Mincks, who plays Demetrius, as well as Nick Bottom, who, as the unfortunate object of Puck's prankishness, ends up with a donkey's head and the magically induced love of the fair queen, Titania.

Shakespeare's words, juxtaposed against modern-day clothing and props, and in the hands -- and mouths -- of this enthusiastic and zany cast made 2½ hours in uncomfortable chairs in an overheated chapel fly.

First Review Snippet, "Midsummer"

"I took in Richmond Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which basically had me laughing until I was crying. I have a new person to envy and that’s the husband of Stacie Reardon Hall. This is a production where everything is set to 11, including the sensuality part and, if Mrs. Hall brings even half of the lusty energy she shows on the stage home with her, well, Oh My, Mr. Hall must be a happy man." - David Timberline,

Have you read or seen any blog postings about 'Midsummer!?' Send them to us!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Midsummer Night's Dream opens next week!

A Midsummer Night's Dream opens next week, with performances Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30. (Check out the discounted preview on Thursday, 8pm.)

The actors are (clockwise from Sandra Clayton at top left, Brandon Crowder, Stacie Rearden Hall, Adam Mincks and Kerry McGee. Directed by Andrew Hamm , with costumes by Rebecca Cairns.

April 16 - May 10

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bard Bite

More than four hundred years after his birth, William Shakespeare remains the most influential writer the English language has yet produced. In celebration of the playwright’s 445th birthday this month, actor and Artistic Director Grant Mudge brings this first in a series of “Bard Bites.” First installment:

Returning from Richmond, Abraham Lincoln Recounts Macbeth.

Airing on 4/9 at 8:49am—Thursday morning! 88.9fm in Richmond or worldwide. Please pass it on!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Richmond CenterStage countdown clock - 165 days until Grand Opening!


Richmond CenterStage Announces Grand Opening Performances, Unveils Countdown Clock

Artists announced for September 12-13 Grand Opening; Clock on Broad Street starts ticking away time until doors open

RICHMOND – One-hundred and sixty-five days: The countdown is on to the Grand Opening of Richmond CenterStage, with a brand new clock on Broad Street that will tick away the moments until the September 12th grand opening of the world-class performing arts complex.

“The opening of Richmond CenterStage has been a long time coming, and the cultural impact this facility will bring to the city is within sight,” said Jim Ukrop, Chairman of the CenterStage Foundation, the fundraising arm of the performing arts center. “When CenterStage opens this year, it will become the cornerstone of this up-and-coming arts district in Virginia’s capital city.”

The Countdown Clock and signage measure 8 feet high by 16 feet long, and contain 1,280 digital LED lights. The 120-pound clock, designed by Chester-based Holiday Signs, will stand on the CenterStage construction site until the Grand Opening, 165 days from today. The clock was unveiled by school-age local performers.

Located on Grace Street between Sixth and Seventh Streets, Richmond CenterStage includes the fully-renovated, 91-year-old Carpenter Theatre with nearly 1,800 seats, along with four other venues: the multi-use space Rhythm Hall, the Genworth BrightLights Education Center, the intimate Gottwald Playhouse and the Showcase Gallery, for exhibition of the visual arts.

“When you consider where Broad Street was just five years ago, it is amazing to imagine that we have come so far and to think about where we are going. But none of this could have been done without support of individuals who looked at this area and saw what it could be, once again,” said Carthan F. Currin III, Richmond’s Economic Development Director. “It is also important to remember that, though ‘Richmond’ is in the name of this project, Richmond CenterStage is a place for everyone from our neighboring counties and elsewhere to visit and enjoy. There is something for everyone here.”

In addition to the clock unveiling, CenterStage officials announced the Grand Opening lineup. The theme of the Grand Opening weekend is “Opening the Doors to Serious Fun,” and will include performances by each of the producing resident companies that will call the venue home:

§ African American Repertory Theatre: Poetry and readings celebrating the inspirational works of noted African American writer Langston Hughes;

§ Elegba Folklore Society: Mandiani, featuring performances of songs, music and dances celebrating the South African culture and traditions;

§ Richmond Ballet: Stoner Winslett’s Windows IV, with 38 dancers and an original score by Virginia composer Jonathan Romeo;

§ Richmond Jazz Society: “Generations of Jazz,” popular masterworks performed live by a quintet of notable Virginia jazz musicians;

§ Richmond Shakespeare: Songs and sonnets by William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary year of their first publication, with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra;

§ Richmond Symphony: Bernstein’s overture from Candide and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, and live accompaniment from four groups: Richmond Ballet, Virginia Opera, Richmond Shakespeare and SPARC;

§ School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, or SPARC: Excerpts from Les Misérables with SPARC students and alumni performing for the first time with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra;

§ Theatre IV – Barksdale: Fuente Ovejuna, with the Latin Ballet of Virginia, a 15th century work from the Golden Age of Spanish Theatre; and,

§ Virginia Opera: The cast of La Bohème performing excerpts from the most popular works in the operatic repertory.

The acts include more than 200 performers from the nine producing resident companies, with nearly 50 additional crew members. The groups are ethnically diverse, with performers who range in age from younger than 10 to nearly 90 years old.

“While CenterStage is going to draw some high-profile national acts, it is foremost the home of our local arts groups to express their diverse and creative performances,” said Managing Director of Richmond Ballet Keith Martin, who is directing the CenterStage Grand Opening performances. “This unprecedented collaboration is going to showcase the best that each art form has to offer. I cannot imagine a more appropriate way to celebrate such an incredible venue, a facility that will offer unlimited possibilities for Richmond’s future.”

The opening weekend will include to two identical productions. The first will be Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. followed by a Sunday matinee at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $35 to $100, and will go on sale on July 1st through Ticketmaster.

For more information about CenterStage, please visit


Monday, February 23, 2009

STYLE review of Amadeus

"Salieri’s conflict of faith is
fine food for conversation as part of
the Acts of Faith Festival."

"Hamilton captures the maddening,
childish charm of Mozart
through his impish giggle and teasing tones."
Mary Burrus, STYLEWeekly

Read the whole review here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Two Sets of Auditions

Director: Andrew Hamm Saturday, February 21, 1pm., at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1925 Grove Avenue. (at Meadow & Grove) Those auditioning should prepare a 1-minute monologue, and come prepared to move. Seeking women, aged 20-60, for the downtown season finale. Experience with Shakespeare required. Show runs at 2nd Presbyterian Church April 16-May10. Phone 804-232-4000 or E-mail for an appointment.

HENRY V (The History Cycle)
Director: James BondMonday & Tuesday, February 23 and 24, 6-9pm, at 2nd Presbyterian Church, 5 North Fifth Street. (A few steps up from Fifth & Main) Those auditioning should prepare a 1-2 minute monologue. Seeking men, aged 20+, for the summer festival opener. Rehearsals start April 27, and the show opens at Agecroft Hall June 12. Phone 804-232-4000 or E-mail for an appointment.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


RICHMOND, VA, January 16, 2009 — Richmond Shakespeare announced on Friday that it will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream as its season finale in place of the earlier planned production of Cymbeline.

“We decided to go with one of the Bard’s best-beloved comedies for our final production at Second Presbyterian Church, says Grant Mudge, artistic director for Richmond Shakespeare. “The Dream appeals to a larger audience because it speaks so readily to the heart. We all know what it means to get a little lost in the woods of love.”

Mudge continues, “We’ve never done a full run of Midsummer indoors, and the company was ‘blown away’ by the demand for last month’s staged reading,” dubbed Midsummer in December.
Andrew Hamm, associate artistic director says, “The beauty of Cymbeline is, unfortunately, overshadowed by the economic realities facing all of us, actors and audiences alike. It’s just not the time to explore the more obscure of Shakespeare’s plays.”

Traditionally Richmond Shakespeare performs A Midsummer Night’s Dream outdoors at Agecroft Hall during its summer Richmond Shakespeare Festival, about every four years. The company last performed the play in 2004 and 2005, respectively in Richmond and touring it as far west as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The 2005 production featured Scott Wichmann and was broadcast on WCVE-TV PBS later that year.

Ticketholders for Cymbeline may use their tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream; exchange their tickets for Amadeus; or receive a full refund by contacting the company’s offices.

Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, a Tony award winner for Best Play, opens February 12. The production is part of Richmond’s annual Acts of Faith festival, America’s largest faith-inspired theatre event. James Bond will direct.

Richmond Shakespeare’s downtown performances are located in the very Elizabethan-looking Chapel of Second Presbyterian Church, 5 North 5th Street. Regular season performances are held Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets, $26 for adults, $15 for students and
$13 for children under 12, are on sale here or 1-866-227-3849 (1-866-BARD-TIX).

Dedicated to making the works of William Shakespeare and other playwrights accessible to all audiences, Richmond Shakespeare is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond Shakespeare offers training, educational outreach and performance tours throughout the country. Richmond Shakespeare’s downtown season will move to CenterStage in October 2009. For more information, call (804) 232-4000.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Acts (and Flights) of Faith

I'm listening to Garrison Keillor just now, who on "A Prairie Home Companion" is singing a song in tribute to the crew of the US Air flight that had to ditch into the Hudson River this week, and especially to its pilot Chesley Sullenberg. Keillor will be in Richmond tomorrow, to perform at the Modlin Center and I'll be attending.

I've been thinking about the astounding feat of that pilot and crew. Raised among aviation, the world of airports and aircraft has always been familiar and dear to me. My father Michael Mudge managed operations at JFK airport for TWA In the 1970's and just out of the Air Force, just a few miles south of LaGuardia, where "Sully's" flight took off. I loved visiting my Dad at the airport, fascinated by the smells and bustle, always mesmerized by the beauty of that old terminal, (now the home of JetBlue) and I was privileged to fly often. I still love flying, though I must admit to a moment of panic on every flight---at "throttle-back," when, having reached cruising speed, the plane's engines are slowed and the speed eases off a bit. You need less thrust to keep a plane in the air than to get it there. It's a moment that profoundly scares me. Every flight. But I still love the perspective from those heights.

I can imagine the panic of those passengers and crew. Amazingly, everyone survived. My father and I have a little fun phrase we use for bumpy or upsetting flights, which here is truer than ever: any flight you can walk away from is a good flight.

You've heard by now that once they were in the water, these folks didn't panic. I remember cynical "guides" to surviving crashes that advised, among other tactics, climbing over the backs of seats (and other passengers) to be first to exit. These passengers didn't fight to get out of that sinking plane—they helped each other. Maneuvering an airbus without power at any speed is impossible. Cruising speed is more than 500mph. Of course, without engines it would be moving more slowly. Still.

Pandemonium, surely, but when that plane stopped moving, calm and caring ruled the day—for women and children, for the elderly, for each other.

Apart from the inaugural, this is the seminal story of early 2009. I'm certain the new President will mention the water landing. Many have proclaimed it a miracle. Doubtless you've heard Mayor Bloomberg's phrase: "Miracle on the Hudson." One view I heard yesterday held that the miracle was a change in perspective. That a plane could be saved. That when we're in trouble Americans care for each other. That human beings do.

Whatever your politics, it's a shift in perspective you can't help but notice, of both recollection and renewal—not only in across our great nation, but right here in our community.

Last night, most of the theatre companies in Richmond gathered in the sanctuary of 2nd Presbyterian Church and previewed the plays of Acts of Faith, a festival of faith-themed theatrical performance this year lasting between January 16 and March 31. Some 200 people gathered, representatives of more than a dozen faith communities and others just interested in great theatre and discussions related to the very heart of what makes us human. There were so many great performances, from the ladies of the African American Repertory Theatre, to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to the Altar Boyz—too many others to highlight, all terrific.

What connects these two stories for me is the sense renewed of collaborating with and caring for each other. In a spirit I've not seen since the days following 9/11: we care for one another, we're interested in one another. In a time of challenges great and small---this is a great sign for theatre---an art from that depicts human story more tangibly than any other. Whatever your religious faith---our faith in each other seems strengthening all the time.

Good flight, Sully. Good Faith, Richmond. Good luck, Mr. President-elect.

The Richmond Shakespeare entry for this year's Acts of Faith festival is Peter Shaffer's Tony Award-Winning play, Amadeus. Talk-back discussions are set for two Sundays: Feb 22 and March 1 after the matinee performances. Tickets are available here or by calling toll-free 1-866-BARD-TIX (227-3849).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Announcing the cast of "Amadeus"

Antonio Salieri - Andrew Hamm
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Mike Hamilton
Constanze Weber - Liz Blake
Emperor Joseph II - Cynde Liffick
Count Johann Killian Von Strack - Katie Ford
Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg - Jamie Reese
Baron Gottfried Van Swieten - Joseph Sultani
Venticelli - Jake Allard and David Janosik

Richmond Shakespeare is proud to announce the cast of our next production, Peter Shaffer's modern masterpiece Amadeus, directed by James Alexander Bond. The company is a mix of veterans and newcomers, continuing our commitment to introducing Richmond's theatre scene to fresh talents and developing the artists we have with challenging pieces and roles.

Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Award nominees Andrew Hamm and Liz Blake share the stage for the fourth time (The Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure, and Hamlet previously), alongside longtime Richmond Shakes veteran Cynde Liffick (more shows than we can count). Three actors are making their second appearances for the company: Katie Ford (Hamlet), Jake Allard (As You Like It) and David Janosik (The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr, Abridged). Jamie Reese makes his memorized-role debut for the company, having appeared in December's staged reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Mike Hamilton and Joseph Sultani once again remind us of how powerful an influence VCU's theatre department is on our local culture.

James Alexander Bond (as seen on Letterman) is directing his fifth production for Richmond Shakespeare, having orchestrated some of the most compelling work the company has ever produced: Julius Caesar, Henry IV Part 1, Measure for Measure, and Henry IV Part 2. He will be returning in the summer to direct Henry V, a unique opportunity for a director to tackle the entire Henriad. Costumes for the show will be designed and constructed by RTCC award-winning (As You Like It) designer Rebecca Cairns with Anne Hoskins.

Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer, will be performed by Richmond Shakespeare from February 12 - March 8 as part of the "Acts of Faith" Festival.

Stay tuned for updates and blogs!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Photo of the live billboard!

Here's how the second of the four (4) billboard images looks from the road. Do send comments, gentle readers.

Did you see it during the day? Night? What do you think of the new bardhead? Send along some comments, folks, we'd love to hear them.

PS - Keep an eye on this blog for cast announcements in the next week on Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer----opening at 2nd Pres on FEB 12!