Henley Street Theater to Merge with Richmond Shakespeare
Richmond’s Henley Street Theatre and the Richmond Shakespeare are excited to announce a merger that will bring the two renowned theatre production companies under one roof for a year-round romp of Shakespearean merriment. The two companies decided to make the move after two years of talk, since the companies’ 2010-2011 co-production of The Winter’s Taleat Center Stage.
Henley Street Theatre’s managing director, Jacqueline O’Conner explained that with the recent departure of their artistic director James Ricks, HST was looking for someone to fill the spot. With Richmond Shakespeare’s addition of artistic director Jan Powell, O’Connor explains that the merger happened at just the right time. “We were in the same unique situation where they had an artistic director who was wonderful, and Henley Street had a managing director, me, so it just seemed like the right time to approach each other.”
Along with fortunate timing, there has also been positive encouragement from patrons and donors. “We got a lot of support from the community saying ‘you should keep considering that!’,” said O’Connor. She also explained that due to the economy, the merger made more sense. “In these economic times it’s very difficult to Shakespearean based companies to survive and not be pulling from the same patron base and donor base,” she added.
Henley Street Theatre, who typically puts on two (out of five) Shakespeare productions a year, says that they are pleased to have more Shakespeare on board. O’Connor also mentioned that the educational opportunities that the merger creates are unique in the city, noting that Henley Street provides educational opportunities through internships and drama programs, and that “Richmond Shakespeare has a wonderful education program, specifically in Shakespearian studies for students… so putting our programs together, I think, is going to be a wonderful opportunity for the Richmond area to have one place to go for students who are interested in studying the classics.”
The merger looks to be a profitable and successful venture for both companies, and seems well supported by the community. Of their future plans, O’Connor says that in the next two years, the public will probably see the companies as one. “Technically, Henley Street Theatre is taking over the management of Richmond Shakespeare, and we will be merging together as one entity, but for now we will keep our separate names. In the end we might come together under a new operating name or one name.”
Richmond Shakespeare’s Board President Brendan Williamson was optimistic about the partnership in a press release sent out yesterday. Our missions were already in sync, and now our needs were too. [HST Managing Director] Jacquie O’Connor’s management acumen and [RS Artistic Director] Jan Powell’s artistic leadership are complementary.”
To celebrate the unification of the businesses, they will be holding the “Bootleg Ball”, an homage to their “Bootleg Shakespeare Series” and sendoff party for Henley Street’s James Ricks. As some people say farewell, others say hello to a new year-round dose of theatre, Shakespeare, and the classics.
“It’s so contemporary feeling, even though it has a medieval setting. This is very much a modern dysfunctional family.”January 23, 2015
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