Tuesday, January 20, 2009


RICHMOND, VA, January 16, 2009 — Richmond Shakespeare announced on Friday that it will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream as its season finale in place of the earlier planned production of Cymbeline.

“We decided to go with one of the Bard’s best-beloved comedies for our final production at Second Presbyterian Church, says Grant Mudge, artistic director for Richmond Shakespeare. “The Dream appeals to a larger audience because it speaks so readily to the heart. We all know what it means to get a little lost in the woods of love.”

Mudge continues, “We’ve never done a full run of Midsummer indoors, and the company was ‘blown away’ by the demand for last month’s staged reading,” dubbed Midsummer in December.
Andrew Hamm, associate artistic director says, “The beauty of Cymbeline is, unfortunately, overshadowed by the economic realities facing all of us, actors and audiences alike. It’s just not the time to explore the more obscure of Shakespeare’s plays.”

Traditionally Richmond Shakespeare performs A Midsummer Night’s Dream outdoors at Agecroft Hall during its summer Richmond Shakespeare Festival, about every four years. The company last performed the play in 2004 and 2005, respectively in Richmond and touring it as far west as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The 2005 production featured Scott Wichmann and was broadcast on WCVE-TV PBS later that year.

Ticketholders for Cymbeline may use their tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream; exchange their tickets for Amadeus; or receive a full refund by contacting the company’s offices.

Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, a Tony award winner for Best Play, opens February 12. The production is part of Richmond’s annual Acts of Faith festival, America’s largest faith-inspired theatre event. James Bond will direct.

Richmond Shakespeare’s downtown performances are located in the very Elizabethan-looking Chapel of Second Presbyterian Church, 5 North 5th Street. Regular season performances are held Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets, $26 for adults, $15 for students and
$13 for children under 12, are on sale here or 1-866-227-3849 (1-866-BARD-TIX).

Dedicated to making the works of William Shakespeare and other playwrights accessible to all audiences, Richmond Shakespeare is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond Shakespeare offers training, educational outreach and performance tours throughout the country. Richmond Shakespeare’s downtown season will move to CenterStage in October 2009. For more information, call (804) 232-4000.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Acts (and Flights) of Faith

I'm listening to Garrison Keillor just now, who on "A Prairie Home Companion" is singing a song in tribute to the crew of the US Air flight that had to ditch into the Hudson River this week, and especially to its pilot Chesley Sullenberg. Keillor will be in Richmond tomorrow, to perform at the Modlin Center and I'll be attending.

I've been thinking about the astounding feat of that pilot and crew. Raised among aviation, the world of airports and aircraft has always been familiar and dear to me. My father Michael Mudge managed operations at JFK airport for TWA In the 1970's and just out of the Air Force, just a few miles south of LaGuardia, where "Sully's" flight took off. I loved visiting my Dad at the airport, fascinated by the smells and bustle, always mesmerized by the beauty of that old terminal, (now the home of JetBlue) and I was privileged to fly often. I still love flying, though I must admit to a moment of panic on every flight---at "throttle-back," when, having reached cruising speed, the plane's engines are slowed and the speed eases off a bit. You need less thrust to keep a plane in the air than to get it there. It's a moment that profoundly scares me. Every flight. But I still love the perspective from those heights.

I can imagine the panic of those passengers and crew. Amazingly, everyone survived. My father and I have a little fun phrase we use for bumpy or upsetting flights, which here is truer than ever: any flight you can walk away from is a good flight.

You've heard by now that once they were in the water, these folks didn't panic. I remember cynical "guides" to surviving crashes that advised, among other tactics, climbing over the backs of seats (and other passengers) to be first to exit. These passengers didn't fight to get out of that sinking plane—they helped each other. Maneuvering an airbus without power at any speed is impossible. Cruising speed is more than 500mph. Of course, without engines it would be moving more slowly. Still.

Pandemonium, surely, but when that plane stopped moving, calm and caring ruled the day—for women and children, for the elderly, for each other.

Apart from the inaugural, this is the seminal story of early 2009. I'm certain the new President will mention the water landing. Many have proclaimed it a miracle. Doubtless you've heard Mayor Bloomberg's phrase: "Miracle on the Hudson." One view I heard yesterday held that the miracle was a change in perspective. That a plane could be saved. That when we're in trouble Americans care for each other. That human beings do.

Whatever your politics, it's a shift in perspective you can't help but notice, of both recollection and renewal—not only in across our great nation, but right here in our community.

Last night, most of the theatre companies in Richmond gathered in the sanctuary of 2nd Presbyterian Church and previewed the plays of Acts of Faith, a festival of faith-themed theatrical performance this year lasting between January 16 and March 31. Some 200 people gathered, representatives of more than a dozen faith communities and others just interested in great theatre and discussions related to the very heart of what makes us human. There were so many great performances, from the ladies of the African American Repertory Theatre, to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to the Altar Boyz—too many others to highlight, all terrific.

What connects these two stories for me is the sense renewed of collaborating with and caring for each other. In a spirit I've not seen since the days following 9/11: we care for one another, we're interested in one another. In a time of challenges great and small---this is a great sign for theatre---an art from that depicts human story more tangibly than any other. Whatever your religious faith---our faith in each other seems strengthening all the time.

Good flight, Sully. Good Faith, Richmond. Good luck, Mr. President-elect.

The Richmond Shakespeare entry for this year's Acts of Faith festival is Peter Shaffer's Tony Award-Winning play, Amadeus. Talk-back discussions are set for two Sundays: Feb 22 and March 1 after the matinee performances. Tickets are available here or by calling toll-free 1-866-BARD-TIX (227-3849).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Announcing the cast of "Amadeus"

Antonio Salieri - Andrew Hamm
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Mike Hamilton
Constanze Weber - Liz Blake
Emperor Joseph II - Cynde Liffick
Count Johann Killian Von Strack - Katie Ford
Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg - Jamie Reese
Baron Gottfried Van Swieten - Joseph Sultani
Venticelli - Jake Allard and David Janosik

Richmond Shakespeare is proud to announce the cast of our next production, Peter Shaffer's modern masterpiece Amadeus, directed by James Alexander Bond. The company is a mix of veterans and newcomers, continuing our commitment to introducing Richmond's theatre scene to fresh talents and developing the artists we have with challenging pieces and roles.

Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Award nominees Andrew Hamm and Liz Blake share the stage for the fourth time (The Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure, and Hamlet previously), alongside longtime Richmond Shakes veteran Cynde Liffick (more shows than we can count). Three actors are making their second appearances for the company: Katie Ford (Hamlet), Jake Allard (As You Like It) and David Janosik (The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr, Abridged). Jamie Reese makes his memorized-role debut for the company, having appeared in December's staged reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Mike Hamilton and Joseph Sultani once again remind us of how powerful an influence VCU's theatre department is on our local culture.

James Alexander Bond (as seen on Letterman) is directing his fifth production for Richmond Shakespeare, having orchestrated some of the most compelling work the company has ever produced: Julius Caesar, Henry IV Part 1, Measure for Measure, and Henry IV Part 2. He will be returning in the summer to direct Henry V, a unique opportunity for a director to tackle the entire Henriad. Costumes for the show will be designed and constructed by RTCC award-winning (As You Like It) designer Rebecca Cairns with Anne Hoskins.

Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer, will be performed by Richmond Shakespeare from February 12 - March 8 as part of the "Acts of Faith" Festival.

Stay tuned for updates and blogs!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Photo of the live billboard!

Here's how the second of the four (4) billboard images looks from the road. Do send comments, gentle readers.

Did you see it during the day? Night? What do you think of the new bardhead? Send along some comments, folks, we'd love to hear them.

PS - Keep an eye on this blog for cast announcements in the next week on Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer----opening at 2nd Pres on FEB 12!