A Season of Change | Theater | Style Weekly

Change, as they say, is the only constant, and that adage certainly rings true when sizing up our local theater scene. While many of Richmond’s theater companies were able to weather the pandemic shutdown more or less intact, there have still been some changes afoot.

In March, The Conciliation Lab announced it would close. Formed by the merging of TheatreLab, the company that managed The Basement performance venue, and The Conciliation Project, a social justice theater company, the joint venture conducted just one full season under that name. While TheatreLab is no more, The Conciliation Project will continue under co-founder Dr. Tawyna Pettiford-Wates’ direction.

In June, Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company announced that it would close its curtains for good. For 10 years, the theater company worked to bring the stories of African Americans to life on stage in Richmond, Petersburg and Hopewell.

5th Wall Theatre hasn’t staged a full production since the pandemic hit, and artistic director Carol Piersol is undergoing treatment for brain cancer (her husband Morrie has been posting updates about her progress online), but the company is continuing to stage its Porch Plays series, where performers act out snippets of shows from the porch of a house as audience members watch from the sidewalk.

At the same time, there are new developments to give us hope. Yes, And! Theatrical Co., which has presented live concerts and co-produced plays for the past decade, has announced its inaugural season as a producing theater company.

Cadence Theatre Company has branched out into TV and film, producing a TV series called “Bloodlines” and developing the Sitelines BLM Film Festival, slated to take place in fall 2023.

Nathaniel Shaw, the former artistic director of Virginia Repertory Theatre, launched The New Theatre last year with Vida Williams, a data scientist. So far, the theater company has produced a podcast; Shaw says they have a number of projects in the works.

And while Virginia Repertory Theatre shuttered its longtime Willow Lawn theater last year, it’s been reported that the biggest name in town is purchasing the Scottish Rite Temple in Lakeside to continue its children’s programming; a spokesperson for the theater company says that they plan to announce a development regarding the purchase in October.

Without further ado, here are a few theater highlights coming up this fall:

“Gabriel: The Musical” – Firehouse Theatre

In the summer of 1800, an enslaved blacksmith named Gabriel planned a large slave rebellion in Richmond that intended to end slavery in Virginia. The enslaved people planned to take control of the Virginia State Armory, the Virginia State Capitol and hold Gov. James Monroe hostage in order to negotiate for their freedom. The day of the planned attack, heavy rain caused flooding that sabotaged their plan. Gabriel and 25 followers were hanged. In its world premiere staging, “Gabriel: The Musical” dramatizes this story in musical form.

“Gabriel: The Musical” runs Sept. 8-Oct. 2 at the Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad St. For more information, visit firehousetheatre.org or call (804) 355-2001.

“Whitesplaining” – The Conciliation Project and VCUarts Theatre

In this coproduction, members of the Conciliation Project and VCUarts Theatre students have collaborated to create an original show exploring white supremacist culture. Overseen by director Tawyna Pettiford-Wates, a professor of acting and directing at Virginia Commonwealth University, the show aims to tackle “whiteness” as a cultural construct by using satire, dance, drama, music and imagery. The script was crafted over the course of a year through workshops involving VCU theater students; additionally, the students interviewed friends, family members and strangers about whiteness to create the show.

“Whitesplaining” runs from Friday, Sept. 16 through Saturday, Sept. 24 at The Basement, 300 East Broad St. Tickets available at https://www.showclix.com/events/1318.

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  • A production still for “Gas Light” at Swift Creek Mill Theatre (Sept. 9 – Oct. 15).

“Gas Light” – Swift Creek Mill Theatre

“Gaslighting” – a term for when someone presents another person with a false narrative to make them question their own reality – has gained traction in pop culture in recent years, but the colloquialism comes from the 1944 Ingrid Bergman film “Gaslight.” This month, Swift Creek Mill Theatre is staging the Patrick Hamilton play that the film was adapted from. In this psychological thriller set in the Victorian era, a husband tries to drive his wife to insanity through incremental manipulation for financial gain.

“Gas Light” runs Sept. 9-Oct. 15 at Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 17401 Jefferson Davis Highway, 23834. For more information, visit swiftcreekmill.com or call 748-5203.

Porch Plays – 5th Wall Theatre

A remnant from the early pandemic, 5th Wall Theatre is producing another installment of its Porch Plays series on Sept. 21. As its name suggests, the show involves actors performing dramatic scenes and monologues from the front porch of a house. This installment will include a reading from Daniel Moore’s new play “Swallow the Sky,” a monologue from Rebecca Gilman’s play “Luna Gale” and a scene from Peter Shaffer’s “Lettice and Lovage.” BYOC (bring your own chair).

Porch plays will take place Sept. 21 at 1517 Hanover Ave. For more information, visit 5thwalltheatre.org or call (804) 359-2003.

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Cherokee performance artist and activist DeLanna Studi in "And So We Walked" at Modlin Center for the Arts on Sept. 22.

  • Cherokee performance artist and activist DeLanna Studi in “And So We Walked” at Modlin Center for the Arts on Sept. 22.

“And So We Walked” – Modlin Center for the Arts

In the summer of 2015, Cherokee performance artist and activist DeLanna Studi embarked on a six-week journey to retrace her great-great-grandparents’ forced relocation from their homelands in the 1830s. “And So We Walked” recounts how Studi and her father walked a 900-mile portion of the Trail of Tears to better understand her own identity and the conflicts of the Cherokee Nation.

“And So We Walked” takes place Sept. 22 at the Modlin Center for the Arts, 435 Westhampton Way, 23173. For more information, call (804) 289-8980 or visit modlin.richmond.edu.

“Smart People” – University of Richmond

On the eve of Barack Obama’s first election, four of Harvard University’s smartest are intrigued by different aspects of the brain, especially how it responds to race. Involving a surgeon, an actress, a psychologist and a neuropsychiatrist, Lydia Diamond’s play delves into weighty issues of social and sexual politics in what Variety called “a sexy, serious, and very, very funny modern-day comedy of manners.” The show is free, but tickets are required.

“Smart People” runs Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the Modlin Center for the Arts, 435 Westhampton Way, 23173. For more information, call (804) 289-8980 or visit modlin.richmond.edu.

“Chicken & Biscuits” – Virginia Repertory Theatre

In its East Coast premiere following its Broadway run, “Chicken & Biscuits” is a comedy about a Black family coming together to bury their patriarch. Banetta, his oldest daughter, is a perfectionist. Her sister Beverly is more concerned with looking good for the occasion. And then there’s Kenny, the grandson who’s invited his Jewish boyfriend Logan to attend. Things begin to go astray when a family secret shows up at the funeral.

“Chicken & Biscuits” runs Sept. 30-Oct. 30 at the November Theatre, 114 W. Broad St., 23220. For more information, visit va-rep.org or call (804) 282-2620.

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Durron Marquis Tyre plays the mysterious Dr. Frank ‘N Furter in Richmond Triangle Players production of “The Rocky Horror Show” which runs Oct. 5 – 22.

  • Durron Marquis Tyre plays the mysterious Dr. Frank ‘N Furter in Richmond Triangle Players production of “The Rocky Horror Show” which runs Oct. 5 – 22.

“The Rocky Horror Show” – Richmond Triangle Players

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” – Yes, And! Theatrical Co.

Richmond is getting a double dose of the time warp this October. First, Richmond Triangle Players is staging “The Rocky Horror Show,” the original musical that the cult classic film is based on. Get tickets fast: the entire run sold out when Triangle last staged this show in 2019. This time, Durron Marquis Tyre will be filling out Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter’s fishnet stockings.

Later in the month, Yes, And! Theatrical Co. will offer two screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” accompanied by live musical performances at the Byrd Theatre. While audience participation is encouraged, Yes, And! will provide attendees with all props for the event.

“The Rocky Horror Show” runs Oct. 5-22 at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Ave. For more information, visit rtriangle.org or call (804) 346-8113.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will have two screenings on Oct. 30 at the Byrd Theatre, 2908 W. Cary St. For more information, visit yesandrva.org.

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Actor Bill Irwin ("Northern Exposure") explores the work of Samuel Beckett in "On Beckett" on Oct. 14 at Modlin Center for the Arts.

  • Actor Bill Irwin (“Northern Exposure”) explores the work of Samuel Beckett in “On Beckett” on Oct. 14 at Modlin Center for the Arts.

“On Beckett” – Modlin Center for the Arts

In this original work, Tony-winning actor and master clown Bill Irwin explores his decades-long relationship with Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s works, including passages from “Waiting for Godot,” “Texts for Nothing” and “Untamable.” In 2005, Irwin won a Tony for starring as George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on Broadway opposite Kathleen Turner.

“On Beckett” plays Oct. 14 at the Modlin Center for the Arts, 435 Westhampton Way, 23173. For more information, call (804) 289-8980 or visit modlin.richmond.edu.

“Dear Evan Hansen” – Altria Theatre

After a misunderstanding, Evan Hansen, a bullied 17-year-old with social anxiety suddenly becomes a social media sensation in this heartbreaking musical. Though Evan initially tries to tell the truth, the situation gets away from him. The New York Times called it “a breathtaking knockout of a musical.”

Broadway in Richmond’s “Dear Evan Hansen” runs Oct. 18-23 at the Altria Theater, 6. N. Laurel St. For more information, visit broadwayinrichmond.com.

“All’s Well That Ends Well” – Quill Theatre

After Helena cures the ailing King of France, she’s allowed to choose a husband from his court. She picks Bertram, the son of a countess, who is indifferent to her and would rather seduce local virgins. Helena gets crafty to get her way in this Shakespearian comedy staged by Quill Theatre.

“All’s Well That Ends Well” runs Oct. 27-Nov. 13 at Dominion Energy Center’s Gottwald Playhouse, 600 E. Grace St. For more information, visit quilltheatre.org or call (804) 340-0115.

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