Footlights: Illuminating the Richmond Theater Scene

Vagabond companies, Acts of Faith Festival + More



Five years ago, the Richmond Triangle Players redefined themselves with a move from cramped quarters in a seedy Broad Street nightclub to comfy new digs in Scott’s Addition. It was a short distance physically but the move demonstrated how the company had graduated from the shadows to become a key driver of resurgence in a funky neighborhood.

When TheatreLab picked an underground location as its downtown home in 2014, it was the perfect choice for a young, insurgent company. On the other end of the spectrum, Swift Creek Mill has matured into its 17th-century gristmill home, offering finely crafted classics and crowd-pleasing originals fitting for such an historic space.

There’s just no escaping the way venue reflects a company’s character. So what then to make of the vagabonds in town? Quill’s staging shows at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts seems like a match made in artistic heaven. Both entities offer works grounded in time-honored masterpieces enhanced by flights into modernistic fancy. But even after Quill’s rousing production of “Lion in Winter” on the museum’s stage last February, and popular Bootleg Shakespeare offerings the past two years, the museum seems reluctant to commit to the relationship.

During its short lifetime, Carol Piersol’s 5th Wall Theatre Company has bopped around from stage to stage, landing this weekend at Chamberlayne Actors Theatre with its latest production, “Unexpected Tenderness.” Chamberlayne has been offering mostly Richmond premieres at its Brook Road location in the North Side for decades, currently putting on its 52nd season. The co-production with 5th Wall has mutual benefits: The homeless company gets a stage to use and Chamberlayne gets a chance to attract new audiences.

But while such an arrangement can work in the short term, expect both 5th Wall and Quill to continue searching for permanent places to call their own. As with people, home ownership is a major character-building step in the life of a theater company.

By the way: Speaking of moving around a lot, Georgia Rogers Farmer brings her cabaret act to CenterStage’s Rhythm Hall on Friday, Feb. 12. The itinerant performer has gained a rabid fan base with sold-out musical comedy specials such as “The Real Housewife of Chesterfield County” and her CenterStage offering, “Lies My Martini Told Me.”

Running: Firehouse’s “The Fourth Wall” and Quill’s “Stupid Fucking Bird” wrap next weekend.

On deck: The annual Acts of Faith theater festival ( has really kicked into gear, with 10 shows opening over the next four weeks. Most notable is world premiere “The Little Lion,” opening at Swift Creek Mill on Jan. 28. It’s the story of a Jewish teenager fighting for freedom during the Holocaust penned by local actress and playwright Irene Ziegler and based on the book by Richmond author Nancy Wright Beasley.

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