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Partners, Pals and Prospects

The theater scene shines a spotlight on cooperation, consolidation and relocation.

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An uncommon phrase pops up with surprising regularity when reviewing the fall theater season: “In association with. …”

While the opening of CenterStage sucks up most of the arts-oriented oxygen in Richmond, another story lurks behind the splashy debut of the new multimillion-dollar venue. Theater companies struggling with the recession and looking to expand audiences are combining forces for an unprecedented number of coproductions this fall.

The Barksdale Theatre lies at the center of most of these copros. The veteran company will collaborate with Latin Ballet of Virginia, Theatre VCU, Henley Street Theatre Company and the African-American Repertory Theatre. Their first fall show at Hanover Tavern will be “Souvenir” (opening Sept. 25), developed with the Company of Fools, a theater troupe based in Hailey, Idaho. With “Sound of Music” next spring, it will even coproduce with itself in the guise of Theatre IV, Richmond's largest theater company, which also manages Barksdale's operations.

“When we coproduce, we don't have to carry the entire burden ourselves,” Barksdale's artistic director, Bruce Miller, says. “People often say, ‘But you have to share revenue as well as expenses,’ but the reality is that there are always more expenses than revenue.”
Every coproduction is different, Miller says, and many are done to expand a company's reach artistically as well as demographically. “We are trying hard to strengthen our connection to the Latino community but I could not be more Anglo if I tried,” Miller says jokingly. “So the artistic nuances I pick up from working with [Latin Ballet's Artistic Director] Ana Ines King are invaluable.” King is developing choreography for Barksdale's first Willow Lawn show, “Boleros for the Disenchanted” (Sept. 18).

Barksdale and its partners are not the only collaborators in town: In addition to moving into CenterStage, Richmond Shakespeare will work with the African-American Repertory Theatre on a production of “Othello” in February. Another company in a new venue will be Richmond Triangle Players, which open “The New Century” (Oct. 7) at their renovated space on Altamont Avenue.
Before Henley Street's coproduction of “Bootleg Shakespeare” (Oct. 30) with Barksdale, it will introduce its new, consolidated, four-member acting ensemble with the contemporary ghost story “Shining City” (Sept. 25). And for those who still mourn the energy that the recently shuttered Stage 1 brought to the scene, Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg opens a world premiere, “40 Acres and a P.O.W.” (Oct. 16), and Theatre VCU offers “Psycho Beach Party” (Sept. 24). Party on!

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