RVA Hen/Shakes Annual Bootleg Ball includes new name for combined theater companies, 2015-16 season announcement
Without knowing much about Richmond’s theatre scene, or broader theatre in general, it can be hard to imagine one company devoted to one man’s plays year after year. But when I met with Jacqueline O’Connor and Jan Powell the two leaders behind Richmond’s Henley Street/Richmond Shakespeare theatre companies, it was made a whole lot clearer. These folks have an undying love for the Bard.
O’Connor (Henley Street) and Powell’s (RichmondShakespeare) two companies have been landmark theater providers in the Richmond area for years, so when they officially joined forces in Summer 2013, people were less than surprised, but still overjoyed.
One theatre lacked a managing director, and the other was losing an artistic director, creating a “perfect storm” for the two companies to come together.
It was clear that the theatre’s missions overlapped: Henley Street was named after the street where Shakespeare was born, and the company often produced Shakespeare along with other classics and their annual Bootleg Shakespeare event. Richmond Shakespeare had a long timeprimary focus on The Bard, including their 17-year-old Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft Hall, which brought performances under the stars to the grounds every summer.
“Richmond Shakes didn’t always do traditionally staged Shakespeare, but comparatively speaking it was a more conservative company, and Henley Street still did someShakespeare, but overall it had a younger, edgier feeling,” said Powell. “This joining allowed the two to come together and revitalize each other. ”
The union has already yielded great results, and with nearlytwo seasons under their belts, they are ready to lose the temporary “Hen/Shakes” title and come together under one new and exciting banner.
“There was one clear component everyone commented on – when they saw our shows, they would judge its value byhow much they talked about it in the car ride home or the next morning – was it theatre worth talking about?” said Powell. ”So when we chose a new name, we wanted to start over, start fresh, and so we needed a name that really fit that aesthetic.”
“The last two years we’ve been figuring out what we would ultimately be when we merged,” said O’Connor. ”And that’s where the new name and the new season lineup come in.”
Both the new name and the season will be announced as part of their 3rd annual Bootleg Ball happening this weekend at the Glave Kocen Gallery.
“[The new name] is really ‘Us’ together,” said O’Connor. “There was a lot of thinking that went into it – what is that thing that encompasses everything that is our two theaters?”
“The new name clearly articulates what has been more of an undefined feeling before,” said Powell about the experience leading up to the big announcement. “It really defines it, it has depth and eloquence, it says this issomething that stays with you through that kind oftransformational magic that brilliant spoken words can have.”
Beyond the new name, expect a 2015-16 season like you’ve never seen come out of the new unified theatre.
Powell and O’Connor read hundreds of plays leading up to the selection of the 2015-16 seasons. They were looking for that depth and genius in each script, and it’s not been easyto find.
“When we’re reading a play, we have to know that it speaks with that brilliant language, a unique voice, something that rings with genius,” said OConnor. “Now that we have finally defined who we are, it is clearer than ever before when we find that kind of theatrical gold—something that says in your gut, this play is ‘us.’”
Supporters of Richmond’s Quill Theatre will gather this Sunday at the Branch Museum for the Fourth Annual Bootleg Ball, an evening of drinking, dancing, games and theatrical good vibes. Proceeds will go to fund the company’s upcoming season and its educational programs and this year’s theme is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “Dress for a night [...]May 17, 2016
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