Bruce Miller’s Summer and Smoke

Bruce Miller
Bruce Miller

This spring, Bruce Miller directs his final production as Virginia Rep’s Artistic Director: Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke. In his note below, read how he came to direct this piece & the story behind the show.

While still a theatre student at U of R, I joined the Barksdale family as an actor in their 1971 production of Invitation to a March at an erstwhile studio theatre space in downtown Richmond known as Barksdale Experimental. Eight years later, my second professional directing opportunity outside of Theatre IV was on the Barksdale mainstage at Hanover Tavern (The Good Doctor, 1979). When Barksdale founders Muriel McAuley and Pete Kilgore offered me the job, they asked for a short list of the plays I’d like to direct. At the top of my list was Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke.

Over the years, I had been enthralled by countless stories about the founding of Barksdale in 1953, when six New York theatre artists decided to risk everything to move to Hanover to start metro Richmond’s first professional performing arts organization of the modern era. I knew well that one of the founders, Stu Falconer, had left his job as stage manager of the legendary Off Broadway production of Summer and Smoke to join his friends on their bold adventure. That 1952 production of Summer … was not just any NYC show. It had been the talk of the town—the Hamilton of its day.

After initially flopping on Broadway in 1948, the Summer … revival was directed by José Quintero and starred Geraldine Page at the original Circle in the Square in Greenwich Village. Because of that revival’s unparalleled critical and commercial success, it has long been credited as the start of Off Broadway. For Stu to leave his secure job in that production to start a brand new theatre in a rundown tavern in rural Virginia was a huge and astounding gamble, to say the least.

And yet, to the best of my knowledge at the time, Summer and Smoke had never been produced by Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern.

When I handed Muriel McAuley my list of play suggestions, and she read the first title, she emphatically said, “No. We retired that jersey.” I asked what she meant. She let out a sigh, and told me this story.

On a hot night in August, 1953, about a week after the intrepid New York artists and their two children had invested every penny they ever hoped to have into purchasing and moving into Hanover Tavern, with no glass in the windows, no indoor plumbing, and certainly no air conditioning, they all gathered in the unfinished English basement that they dreamed one day to turn into a theatre. They held a private reading of Summer and Smoke. No one else was there.

Nonetheless, it was the first play ever to be brought to life by the motley company that has now become Virginia Rep.

“And it was the best damn Summer and Smoke that will ever be done anywhere by anyone,” Muriel assured me.

The founders of the original Barkdale Theatre in 1953.
The founders of the original Barkdale Theatre in 1953.

I have no reason to doubt her word. Summer and Smoke is about many things. One of them is the importance of risking everything you have to find, claim, and follow your passion. That’s what the founders of Barksdale did when they were all in their 20s. That’s what Phil Whiteway and I did in 1975 when we founded Theatre IV.

Now, as I direct the final show of my 41-year career as Artistic Director, I am honored to work with this wonderful cast of six eager actors all in their 20s, and two talented kids, to honor that evening in 1953 when a similar group used Summer and Smoke to validate the craziness, the camaraderie, and the commitment that would determine the direction of the rest of their lives.

Like Pete and Muriel and the other Barksdale founders, I have been privileged to build a life in Richmond theatre. I have not done it alone. To each and every one of you who have been there for the journey, I offer my undying gratitude. Thank you for giving me my life.

Summer and Smoke runs April 22 – May 15 at the November Theatre, 114 W Broad St, Richmond VA. Tickets are available here.

Auditions for The Golden Goose

Auditions

THE GOLDEN GOOSE
DIRECTION BY FORD FLANNAGAN

Sunday, April 24, 6-10 p.m.

Auditions are by appointment only and will be held at Virginia Rep’s November Theatre, 114 W Broad St., Richmond, VA 23220.

Please e-mail casting@virginiarep.org to request an appointment.
Those auditioning are asked to prepare a short musical theatre song, not to exceed 2 minutes in length. An accompanist will be provided. Please bring sheet music in the appropriate key.

Rehearsals begin June 6 for a July 8 – August 7 run.

Please direct questions to casting@virginiarep.org

All performers will be paid.

Casting the following roles:
Casting an ensemble of 5 men and 3 women to play a variety of roles, including The Golden Goose, Queen, Mom, Old Magician, Princess, Jester, Etc.

More about the show

Our new Artistic Director, Nathaniel Shaw

Announcing our new Artistic Director

Nathaniel Shaw

shaw_announce_november_bg

The Board of Directors of Virginia Repertory Theatre proudly announces Nathaniel Shaw as the new Artistic Director.  Shaw will consult with Virginia Rep remotely from New York starting July 1 until he relocates to Richmond permanently in October with his wife Lisa Rumbauskas and their children.   After 41 years as the Founding Artistic Director, Bruce Miller will transition to Founding Producer and will focus his efforts on education and fundraising.  Phil Whiteway will continue as Managing Director.

Board member Don Garber led the transition team that interviewed candidates from a national pool of 52 applicants.  “We are delighted to welcome Nathaniel to Virginia Rep. He impressed the board committee with his broad experience as a director, actor, dancer and choreographer, and with his energy and respect for what Bruce and Phil have accomplished.  We think he is the right person to build on their legacy.”

Managing Director, Phil Whiteway, also spoke of the process.  “It was important to us to have buy-in from all of our stakeholders.  As a guest director for Peter and the Starcatcher last fall, Nathaniel worked with many of our staff and theatre artists.  This spring, he met with an extended group of board, staff, theatre artists and leaders in the community.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and reflects Nathaniel’s comfort level.  His experience in developing new works is particularly exciting to us as we seek to expand our impact within this area locally and beyond Richmond.”

Virginia Rep will hold several events in the fall to welcome Shaw, who spoke of his excitement.  “I am thrilled to be joining the wonderful staff and devoted board of Virginia Rep, and the passionate and talented Richmond theater community.  My wife and I are extremely excited about raising our family in the vibrant city of Richmond.  I cannot wait to start this wild and wonderful ride.”

Shaw was born in Menlo, California, but spent much of his childhood in Arizona.  He began his career as a professional dancer, following in the footsteps of his parents who were both in modern dance until they assumed tenured faculty positions at Arizona State University.  After receiving a BA in Musical Theater from the University of Northern Colorado, Shaw moved to New York to pursue a career in theater and dance.  He was a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company for three years with featured roles in many Taylor classics and originating roles in new productions such as Spring Rounds and Banquet of Vultures.  Nathaniel Shaw’s father, Cliff Keuter also danced for Mr. Taylor.

In 2006 Shaw returned to theatre where he served as the founder and Artistic Director of The Active Theater in New York for six years.  For the company, Shaw directed the first New York City revival of The Violet Hour, which received an Innovative Theater Award Nomination for Best Revival, the world premiere of Bridgeboy, and the world premiere of Body Language, which received four nominations at the Midtown International Theatre Festival.

In 2013, Nathaniel joined the team of the Tony Award-winning production of Once as an Associate Choreographer for Tony Nominee Steven Hoggett. In addition to oversight of both the Broadway production and First National Tour, Nathaniel traveled with Tony Award-winning director John Tiffany and Music Supervisor Martin Lowe to cast productions in both South Korea and Australia.

Currently, Nathaniel Shaw works with the Tony and Olivier Award-winning producers Glass Half Full as Development Director, responsible for sourcing new projects for development and eventual production.  Glass Half Full is best recognized for the Tony Award-winning productions of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Twelfth Night and Richard III starring Mark Rylance, and the Olivier Award-winning Sunny Afternoon.

Acting and dance credits include iconic roles such as Will Parker in Oklahoma starring with Tony Award-winner Kelli O’Hara and Tony Nominee Will Chase, Curly in Oklahoma and in the same production Dream Curly for choreographer Tyce Diorio (So You Think You Can Dance), Zach in A Chorus Line, Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees, Rooster in Annie, Jerry Lukowski in The Full Monty, Jesus in Godspell, Riff in West Side Story, Ren in Footloose, Lt. Cable in South Pacific, Younger Brother in Ragtime, and The Emcee in Cabaret.

Auditions for Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls

DIRECTION BY CHASE KNIFFEN
CHOREOGRAPHY BY LESLIE-OWENS HARRINGTON
MUSIC DIRECTION BY JOHN WINN

Auditions for Dreamgirls will be held on Monday, March 7, 2016, from 6 – 10 p.m.  Auditions are by appointment only and will be held at Virginia Rep’s November Theatre, 114 W Broad St., Richmond, VA 23220.

 
Please e-mail casting@virginiarep.org to request an appointment.

 

Those auditioning are asked to prepare 16 bars of a musical theatre or pop song. Please bring sheet music in the appropriate key. An accompanist will be provided.  Also, be prepared to dance.

Rehearsals begin May 23 for a June 24 – August 7 run.

 

Please direct all questions and appointment requests to casting@virginiarep.org.

 

All performers will be paid.  Union and Non-union.

 

Casting the following roles:

**The roles of Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson, and Michelle Morris are CAST.

 

EFFIE WHITE

Female, 20-35, African American

The plus-sized leading singer of the group with a huge voice and a Diva attitude to match; belt/soprano – low F to high C

 

CURTIS TAYLOR, JR.

Male, 20-35, African American

The cutthroat manager of the Dreams, willing to do whatever it takes to make his dream come true; high baritone – C to G (above middle C)

 

JAMES THUNDER EARLY

Male, 25-40, African American

A wild entertainer who is a cross between Little Richard and James Brown; tenor – belt Bb and strong falsetto to D

 

C.C. WHITE

Male, 20-35, African American

Effie’s soft-spoken younger brother serves as the main songwriter for the Dreamettes; tenor

 

MARTY

Male, 30-50, African American

Jimmy’s old-school manager until he quits because of Curtis; baritone – up to G

 

ENSEMBLE

Males and females, 18-35, African American

Fierce singer/dancers to play many various roles; Will also cover principal roles