Saturday, January 17, 2009

Acts of Faith... and other factors

Last night I attended the preview event for this year's Acts of Faith theater festival, and even though only 7 of the 14 participating productions actually presented bits of their plays, it was enough to whet my appetite and make me wish I had more time, money and reliable babysitters.

The two I'm absolutely not going to miss are Richmond Shakespeare's production of "Amadeus" and Barksdale's "Children of a Lesser God"-- but I would also love to see JFT's "The Chosen," Henley Street's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Swift Creek Mill's "Of Mice and Men" ... actually nearly all of them look promising.

Rock Me
Afterward, I asked Mozart (Mike Hamilton) what the musical plans for "Amadeus" were, because I was curious whether Richmond Shakespeare and director James A. Bond would filter some 20th/21st century music into the production as a way of adding shades of understanding to the play.

Mike, who's not a piano player himself, said he didn't know, but said he'd been looking into hip-hop music, as part of his character study, because it seemed like there might be parallels to uncover, including the tendency of the music industry to promote very young musicians as stars.

So Long, Cymbeline
During the preview, RS's Grant Mudge announced that the spring production would not be "Cymbeline," as planned, but "A Midsummer Night's Dream." He cited, first, "economic" reasons--meaning, I suppose, though he didn't say so, that not enough people would buy a ticket for a Shakespeare play they hadn't studied in high school. He also said that because RS has never performed "Midsummer" indoors, and because they'll be moving to the new, larger Center Stage theater next year, they wanted to do it in the intimate, warm wooden chapel of 2nd Pres. church.

That sure sounds like post facto justification to me. I'm sure "Midsummer" will be jolly and pretty --but heck, it always is. I was really looking forward to "Cymbeline," which I've never even read, let alone seen.

(I'm reminded of six years ago, when the Richmond Symphony quietly substituted Beethoven's 5th for the more-costly-to-produce Mahler's 3rd. If I remember correctly, it was their last Masterworks concert in the Carpenter Center before the two-year interruption for construction.... )

There's a wry comment waiting backstage about "Cymbeline" and acts of faith, but I'll sigh and understand. This midsummer night's dream better be psychadelically outstanding, though.


  1. Hello Angela--thanks for your blog posting and for attending the AOF preview!

    I am looking forward to the day when, as for 'Bard on the Beach' in Vancouver, BC, all our performances are sold out. But the economics of producing Cymbeline right now are indeed not in our favor. There's another reason for the change I neglected to mention Friday night: the popularity of "Midsummer in December," a staged-reading of the play, among our core audience. Afterward literally everyone asked for a full production. Added to the attraction of one last shot in the chapel for that title, the success of the December reading and the need for a larger audience, and my decision was clear.

    We will produce another such staged-reading during "A Midsummer Night's Dream" --of Cymbeline--and perhaps we'll confirm our faith in the play and in our great audiences. If the reading does well, it's quite likely I'll be able to include it on an upcoming season, either at CenterStage or at Agecroft Hall on the summertime Richmond Shakespeare Festival stage.

    Thanks again for coming to the preview, and do stop by to say hello at Amadeus.

    -Grant Mudge

  2. I will miss much about productions in the 2nd Pres. chapel, and I'm entirely confident RS will exploit the space in surprising and puckish ways for "Midsummer."

    Good to hear about the staged reading of "Cymbeline" -- a reasonable compromise.