Footlights: Illuminating the Richmond Theater Scene

This Week: Out-of-Town-Actors, a Name Change + More.



On this day celebrating love, I’m compelled to bring up a potentially awkward relationship issue.

While Richmond has a robust cadre of native theater professionals, companies sometimes look to out-of-town actors to take on key roles in big productions, a move that can prompt low-level grumbling from the locals. Does this inject potential discord into the trust and camaraderie a cast must develop to put on a show?

Not according to the out-of-towners.

“We all meshed pretty quickly,” says Wilbur Edwin Henry, a New York-based actor who plays Peppino in Virginia Repertory Theatre’s recently opened “Saturday, Sunday, Monday.” The production’s cast is split almost 50-50 between locals and actors from other cities. “No matter where we’re from, we’re all actors and we all share common backgrounds and common experiences.”

Kate Burke, a professor at the University of Virginia, is commuting from Charlottesville to play Rosa. “With every production, there’s always that initial feeling of disorientation, like, ‘Who are these people?’” she says. “But we’re all professionals working for the good of the play. We all get to know each other very quickly.”

Burke understands that it can be hard to integrate someone who’s unfamiliar but notes the benefits. “I know working at a university, it can become a very closed community,” she says. “Incorporating different people brings the stimulation of something new and surprising. That energy makes the work come alive.”

During the past several years, Henry has appeared in productions in Boston, Cincinnati and Baltimore. In all of the cities he’s worked, he says, a common feeling of gratitude for being a working actor is more prevalent than any sense of resentment.

“No matter where you’re from, you work together intensely for seven or eight weeks,” he says. “[Your castmates] become like the best friends of your life, and then you may never see them again.”

By the way: Spin, Spit and Swear, the company that co-produced last season’s electrifying “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” has changed its name to “Yes, And! Entertainment.” It features its coming projects on Facebook at

Running: Virginia Rep’s “Saturday, Sunday, Monday” runs until March 6, which is the same weekend that “The Little Lion” ends its run at Swift Creek Mill.

On deck: The coming week features a great theater doubleheader. Ascend to the heights of “The Mountaintop,” a fictional retelling of the last night on earth of Martin Luther King Jr. at Cadence at Virginia Rep’s Theatre Gym, and then explore the depths of TheatreLab’s Basement venue to take in “Bad Jews.” The family comedy has been selling out crowds across the country with its wicked, sometimes downright vicious, humor since its 2012 off-Broadway debut.

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