WNRN Culture Connection for Feb 2 – 8

Punksatawney Phil master groundhog prognosticator has deemed we are in for six more weeks of winter which means it is a good time to explore some history.  This week’s WNRN Culture Connection features three events that offer you that chance:  Henley Street Theatre Company’s production of The Lion in Winter,  music from the swinging ‘60’s at Four County Players’ Songs in the Cellar: Broadway by the Decade, and a chance to view the VMI Cadets parade on post is full dress.

To learn more about these featured events click on the links below. To hear a podcast of this week’s Culture Connection go to wnrn.org and click on the “features” tab to find Culture Connections.

The Lion in Winter:


Songs in the Cellars:


VMI Dress Parade:


Stay warm and have a great week!



Shakespearian Summer

Here in Central Virginia summer paints the land an emerald green and soft nights to entice the human population out of doors.  One of my favorite activities is to see plays and concerts al fresco during the long summer evenings and recently I did just that- I went to Agecroft Hall in Richmond to see Henley Street/Richmond Shakespeare’s production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.  In past years I have grumbled about the quality of Richmond Shakespeare’s shows.  To wit, one particular production of ROMEO AND JULIET in which the actors were far too old for the parts of the star-crossed lovers and the sets were literally fashioned from 2 x 4’s and cardboard (the “structure” used for the balcony scene wobbled so terribly I feared for the actor’s safety – that was quite distracting).  At any rate, the merger with Henley Street Theatre Company has apparently been a good move because the show was wonderful!

Of particular note is the set, a jungle gym of crepe myrtle branches created by Agecroft’s multi-talented Executive Director, Richard Moxley sits center stage and is expertly put to use by director, Jan Powell.  The players weave in and out and onto this thing like threads on a loom.   And when the lights are dimmed, a rich indigo lights the structure to create a beautiful jewel quality.  It is simply brilliant!

The sound is also spectacular. Little bug hums and chirps speckle the evening, some human made and others recorded with whispery bits of music and dialog mixed in to add to the dream like quality of the show.

But best of all were the group of four fairies.  Three young woman and one young man whom I would be honored to name here if I could only find my program (or if their names were mentioned in a cast list on the website).  They moved so beautifully and affected such perfect natural mischief it is as if they just jumped out of an Art Nouveau painting to join in the romantic fun.

Also on the must mention list is the lovely VCU student who plays Puck.  Quite simply put she is  the best Puck I have yet to see. Playful and fun, confident and whimsical, she gambles and spins about the show like a kid (meaning an actual baby goat) amongst clover.

There is other good stuff too but time prohibits my expanding on them.  My advice is to click here and get your tickets now and experience this play as it ultimately should be experienced- outdoors on a midsummer night.





wnrn Culture Connection for Nov 11 – 18

Wine, shopping and a raucous comedy- I can hardly think of a better way to spend the weekend…

What better place to taste wine on Saturday than the Jefferson Wine Festival at Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s private retreat.  Sixteen Virginia wineries will be represented along with local food purveyors, artisans and two bands.  

Also on Saturday you can start you holiday shopping at nonprofit Virginia Horse Center’s Holiday Craft Bazaar featuring jewelry, candy, crafts, baked good and more. The event is free but donations for the SPCA and Food Pantry are encouraged.

All weekend in Richmond, nonprofit Richmond Shakespeare presents Taming of the Shrew. Inspired by the VMFA exhibit “Hollywood Costume,” this production evokes the best of Hollywood’s screwball comedies, glamorous musicals and gangster movies.

If you know of a fun event coming up in the next month email me at mary@wnrn.org and help me to help you make a wnrn culture connection.

WNRN logo

Surreal WNRN Culture Connection for October 21 – 27

All of this week’s Culture Connections have something to do with dressing up and doing something a little out of the ordinary. OK, so maybe a Halloween Carnival is not THAT unusual this time of year but it IS something not available year ’round.

On Saturday nonprofit Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare present the Fifth Annual Bootleg Shakespeare a ONE-NIGHT-ONLY, FREE PERFORMANCE in which professional actors come together with their lines memorized and their own costumes and props to mount an unrehearsed production of Pericles.

Also on Saturday, Live Arts hosts its annual Gala, Charlottesville’s most over the top party where a cast of 250 volunteers create several changing environments in which to party throughout this surreal night of debauchery for a cause.

For family fun on Sunday, head to the Halloween Carnival in Harrisonburg at the Cecil F.  Gilkerson Community Activities Center for an evening of games, crafts, candy and a kids costume contest.

For more information on these events and more go to wnrn.org. To give me the 411 on an upcoming event (three to four weeks advance notice please) shoot me an email at mary@wnrn.org.  If you are a 501(c)3 in the wnrn listening area, contact Tad Abbey at tad@wnrn.org to record a Community Connection PSA.  If you would like to hear about my Arts and Culture adventures from last week go to culturenuts.wordpress.com.


Have a great week making those Culture Connections.

The Culture Maven

WNRN logo

Henley Street High: Internship Program Offers Many Lessons


Collection of Henley Street Interns for Julius Caesar.

Collection of Henley Street Interns for Julius Caesar.


In the world of arts “on-the-job” experience is as important (if not, sometimes, more important) than a degree in the field when one is being considered for a job.  The catch is how to get experience if you need it to get a job in the first place?  Henley Street Theatre Company helps young people solve this problem by offering an internship program for high school students. “It is our responsibility to nurture and educate the next generation of arts supporters,” explains Managing Director, Jacquie O’Connor. “We believe that by offering programs such as these, we will not only generate interest in what the Richmond theatre community has to offer, but also stimulate learning about the power of theatre.”

The program sponsored by the Moses D. Nunnally, Jr. Charitable Trust allows high schoolers to explore career options in live theatre. “Henley Street really believes that live theatre is a wonderful way to excite young and old minds alike! Getting a taste for the “realities’ of theatre (which are not as glamorous as one might think, but joyful beyond measure) really helps students decide if this is the path they want to take,” says O’Connor. Students can apply for internship positions in acting, stage management, costumes, set design and construction, lighting, sound and properties. As a bonus a $100.00 stipend for their time – which might cover the cost of gas going to and from the theatre on most week nights and weekend days for the four to eight weeks required depending on the choice of internship.

“By working on a theatrical production students are learning how to work as a team and how to look at a task and problem solve how it gets done- really important life skills in addition to specific job skills,” says O’Connor.  Some of the interns come with professional goals in mind while others just want to learn more about how professional theatre works. Ben Fox, a 16 year old tenth grader who attends the Steward School is enjoying an acting internship for Henley Street’s upcoming production of Julius Caesar. He is playing Brutus’ servant, Lucius and is part of the ensemble. “ I love Shakespeare, and I have always had positive experiences watching and working on Henley Street shows,” he says. “ I am gaining connections to fantastic Richmond area actors and learning from James how a professional show is put together.”

Sixteen year old, Kennedy Lorenzen, a tenth grader at Deep Run High who interned on The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe has returned to the program to work with costume designer, Margarette Joyner. Though she plans to be a restauranteur later in life, she believes that interning has given her a different perspective on how live theater happens. She says, “I can now admire everything in a show.” Her return costume intern friend, Charlotte Adams, a 16 year old junior at Collegiate, who aspires to be an actress/costumer hopes the internship will help with her career. “I want to be an actress, but I also have a passion for clothes, so I would love to pursue a career in both of those,” she says. “I was a costume intern at Henley Street Theatre last year for their production of Lord of the Flies and really enjoyed it, so when I saw that they were offering costume internships again this year, I jumped at it. This year I am gaining experience in the organization and production of costumes for a period show.”

“I wanted to try doing a Shakespeare show because it looked like a lot of fun,” says Diego Salinas, a 17 year old junior from Atlee High School who is playing Trebonius in Julius Caesar. “I am learning a lot about acting from this internship. I’ve seen characters portrayed in a very realistic way in this show and it has given me a new perspective on acting and interacting.”

But the life lessons learned are not always about theatre or team work. Lorenzen recalls a “running with scissors” moment behind scenes. “The other day I was helping with costumes, and I decided to work and watch the cast perform. Right when I finished, I picked up the seven long shirts, grabbed my scissors, and the pins. As soon as I started to walk up the marble stairs, I began to fall. I threw the scissors across the hallway and the two actors who were Julius Caesar and Brutus were right there and helped me get up. I was so embarrassed.”

Regardless of the types of lessons learned, their work with Henley Street is an important stepping stone for their futures. Says Fox of his ambitions for acting, “My next steps are to continue working on plays and making connections with people who will help me experience the art of stage performance to its fullest.”  But the interns are not the only people gaining from the internship experience. “The most rewarding  thing that we gain from the interns,  something I hear from every mentor that works with them, is that these kids come to the table with fresh, bold, unaffected ideas.  They remind us that its OK to be daring and take a leap of faith in our work.  They keep us young.”

And that is what makes good theatre.


Henley’s Act of Faith


Joe Pabst in Faith Healer

Joe Pabst in Faith Healer

Faith Healer is Henley Street Theatre Company’s submission for the ACTS OF FAITH FESTIVAL  in Richmond this year. They are an amazing young company that proves good product will survive despite the economy.  To learn more about Acts of Faith Festival click here.  To learn more about Henley Street Theatre Company click here.

Henley Street Theatre is pleased to announce the next show in its main stage 2012-13 season – Faith Healer by Brian Friel.  This show will preview on Thurs Jan 31st and open on Feb 1st – running through Feb 23rd, 2013 at SPARC Center for the Performing Arts.

Written by one of Ireland’s most beloved playwrights, Faith Healer depicts three fascinating characters – an alcoholic, charismatic faith healer Frank, his love-starved companion Grace and his devoted promoter Teddy – who tell conflicting versions of the same story.  In this darkly lyrical tale examines how subjective truths inform the choices we make.

  • Faith Healer is a Richmond Premiere.
  • This show is part of the Richmond Acts of Faith Festival – the largest faith based theatre festival in the United States.
  • Nominated for 4 Tony Awards.
  • There will be two Sunday talk-backs, hosted by Pastor Alex Evans, Second Presbyterian Church.  The talk-backs will examine the subject truths of the play.
  • Faith Healer stars Joe Pabst, Richmond director (Patsy Cline) and actor, Katie McCall, winner of the Richmond Theatre Critic Circle Award for Best Actress and Williamsburg award-winning actor Ron Reid.




By Brian Friel

Directed by James Ricks

January 31 – February 23, 2013

A Richmond Premiere!

Part of the Richmond Acts of Faith Festival

“Mesmerizing…a major work of art” – The New York Times

“One of the most quietly powerful and influential of Irish plays of the last 30 years.” – THE GUARDIAN


“Modern plays come no finer than Faith Healer, the great masterpiece among his many splendid works.” – THE TELEGRAPH

My Story about Bootleg Hamlet from STYLE WEEKLY

Shakespeare, Shaken

Twenty actors and one rehearsal: What could go wrong?


  • click to enlargeUm, there's a dead lady in my pool. ... Audra Honaker plays Ophelia and James Ricks is Hamlet in this year's Bootleg Shakespeare production. - Chris Smith
  • Chris Smith
  • Um, there’s a dead lady in my pool. … Audra Honaker plays Ophelia and James Ricks is Hamlet in this year’s Bootleg Shakespeare production.

“Audiences love it when there is a train wreck,” Henley Street Theatre Company’s artistic director, James Ricks, says of his annual Bootleg Shakespeare production. It’s all part of the crazy energy of the event, in which selected actors converge on a specific day with lines memorized, costumes chosen and props in hand, go through one practice run and then perform that night in front of an audience. This year’s show is “Hamlet,” in which Ricks will reprise the title role he played 11 years ago at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton.

Ricks has never acted in a Henley Street bootleg production, and he’s in good company. Some of Richmond’s leading actors, such as Audra Honaker and Scott Wichmann, are joining in for the first time along with key management from several local professional theater companies.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had to memorize words and say them in front of people,” says Philip Crosby, managing director of Richmond Triangle Players, who last acted onstage in 1985. “My goal is to wake everybody up,” he says, “so this performance could end up somewhere between Oscar Wilde, Terry-Thomas and Bette Midler. We’ll just have to see.”

Wichmann plays Fortinbras, his first performance since his return from deployment to Afghanistan as a Navy reservist. There he worked with the Army to recycle and dispose of used equipment in an effort to clean up battle space. “It will be my first exposure to this process,” he says. “It is scary and interesting to see what the dynamic is and just be a part of that energy.”

What Wichmann’s talking about is the Elizabethan-style staging that minimizes rehearsals and emphasizes performance. “Actors were given their lines and the cue that indicated when they needed to execute those lines,” Ricks says. “So not only were roles learned in isolation from the other actors, but also the rest of the play.”

Lack of rehearsal time may have been normal for actors during Shakespeare’s time, but modern-day actors are used to practicing their parts. “It is really interesting to see how different actors handle the intensity of this type of staging,” Ricks says. “Some thrive on it while others just fall apart.”

“I think I’ll love it,” Honaker says. “It’s kind of like how a callback works [in an audition]: You just go out there and do it the best you can right at that time. You don’t have time to overthink it.”

Past years’ bootleg performances sold out in minutes at the previous location, Virginia Rep’s theatre at Willow Lawn. Moving to the larger November Theatre, formerly the Empire, will accommodate more people and permit a bigger show — which also maximizes the potential for mishaps. Another plus for Ricks is that the performances tends to show off plays that aren’t normally produced, such as “Titus Andronicus” and “Troilus and Cressida.” “There’s no expectation of what those plays are supposed to be like. Everybody’s going to come into ‘Hamlet’ thinking they know the show,” Ricks says. “We want to defy some of the expectation and maintain the bootleg aesthetic, which is very irreverent and kind of all over the place.” S

Henley Street Theatre Company’s Bootleg Shakespeare production of “Hamlet” takes place at the November Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. Free, suggested donation $10. Tickets will be released at 6 p.m. Limit two tickets per person, no reservations taken. For information, visithenleystreettheatre.org or call 340-0115.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.