By Bruce Miller
It’s come to my attention that I offended some of my theatre colleagues this past weekend in a quote that was attributed to me in our season announcement. I appreciate the fact that a colleague at another theatre in town expressed disappointment in my comment. I’d much rather know that I’ve offended friends and colleagues than not know. It was certainly not my intention. This is not the first time something I’ve written or said caused offense, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Nonetheless, I’m sorry.
In yesterday’s season announcement, I was quoted as saying:
“ ‘We try to do the great American musicals on a regular basis, because we’re the only theater that has the resources to do full productions of major musicals,’ said Bruce Miller, Virginia Rep artistic director.
‘If we were not doing them, then theater artists in Richmond wouldn’t have the chance to participate in those shows. We are excited about doing two big musicals every year, and I think Gypsy and Dreamgirls will both help to expand our audience and really celebrate what is a uniquely American art form, the Broadway musical,’ Miller said.”
I understand how and why this comment, as quoted, might offend some of my Richmond theatre colleagues who mount their own highly acclaimed productions of “great American musicals” and “major musicals.” I don’t think it is an accurate quote, but then again, I can’t be sure. But ask anyone who does phone interviews, and I think you’ll hear over and over again that the abbreviated quote that appears in the paper due to space constraints can’t fully reflect the sentiments expressed in the interview.
Without intending to cast any doubts on the reporter’s veracity, here’s what I meant to say, and roughly what I think I said. Those of you who know me have heard me say this many times. It’s what I believe.
Question: I note that in addition to plays you’re doing two big musicals, and that you seem to do this year after year. Why?
Answer: We believe it’s part of our responsibility to produce the great American musicals. We know that for a large percentage of the Richmond theatre-going audience, big, splashy, fully produced musicals are what theatre is all about. It’s what they want to see. We want these Richmond theatregoers to know that they can have that Broadway experience at “locally produced” theatres, right here in Richmond. We don’t want to cede the responsibility of producing those shows to the touring companies that originate elsewhere and come to town only for short runs in rented houses. With our Broadway-style theatre and relatively large budget, we’re the only theatre in town that has the resources to do full-blown, Broadway-sized productions of major musicals. So, for the Richmond audience, we try to do them on a regular basis. And we think the theatre artists who work with us also appreciate the opportunities we provide. Where else will they have the chance to design a set with a $30,000 budget, or act on stage with a Tony-nominated star?
It was not my intention to say or imply that the Mill’s production of Drowsy Chaperone, or Triangle’s productions of Cabaret or La Cage, or the Firehouse’s production of Hair were in any way less worthy or enjoyable or acclaimed. I was not intending to comment on those shows at all. I was intending to brag on Virginia Rep, to be sure. I’m proud of our big splashy musicals.
Richmond Triangle Players says “If we didn’t do it, who would?” Swift Creek Theatre is “The People’s Playhouse for Over 45 Years.” The Firehouse Theatre is “Off Broadway, On Broad Street.”
We don’t say it in a tag line, but one of the things that makes Virginia Rep unique is that we produce full-out Broadway-style productions (comparatively) of major American musicals in a Broadway-style theatre.
All of us are asked to define what makes each of our theatres unique. All of us do the best we can to do so accurately without intending to imply that no other theatre does gay themed plays, no other theatre is appreciated by or devoted to people, no other theatre does Off Broadway plays on Broad Street, or no other theatre produces high quality, acclaimed productions of major Broadway musicals.
Again, I apologize to my friends for any misunderstanding. I am very supportive of my colleague theatres. I never intended to disparage any of them in any way.