Just like with the movies, local theater rolls out a series of summer blockbusters every year. During the next several weeks, Quill Theatre will kick off the Richmond Shakespeare Festival with “Twelfth Night,” while several other companies prepare big boffo musicals, including Triangle Players’ “The Boy from Oz,” Virginia Repertory Theatre’s “Dreamgirls” and Firehouse Theatre’s “American Idiot.”
Before the cresting wave of rambunctious, warm-weather entertainment crashes, here are some sidelights and one-offs to mull over in the interim:
More than theater: On Wednesday, 5th Wall will unveil its 2016-’17 season plans, capping off the cavalcade of similar revelations that started with Virginia Rep back in March. To this observer, the most interesting aspect of this year’s highly anticipated announcements has been the proliferation of supplementary works offered in addition to the typical main-stage productions.
It could be argued that Firehouse was the first company to embrace the auxiliary material model with its ongoing Firehouse Fringe and Firehouse Studio series, grab bags of things as varied as poetry and burlesque. TheatreLab will extend its Cellar Series of short-run productions next season, and Richmond Triangle is joining the fray with its Sister Series of staged or concert readings that will run in conjunction with its five main-stage shows.
I’m not sure what the economic calculus is that goes into the development of these complementary offerings, but it seems like theater companies have determined that nature -- or maybe the admission-paying public -- abhors an empty stage.
Shakespeare tribute: There’s a lot of historical uncertainty about Shakespeare but there’s no dispute that he died in April 1616. Therefore, Bard-o-philes have latched onto 2016, the 400th anniversary of his passing, as something notable. Quill is joining a couple dozen partner organizations in presenting this summer’s Richmond Shakespeare Festival as part of the Virginia Shakespeare Initiative, a statewide celebration of all things Shakespeare. For information on other events, check out the website at vashakespeare.org.
New conversations: The collaborative educational program, Spectrum, staged a show called “Queerosity: The Conversations No One Wants to Have” at Richmond Triangle Players last week. The production came up a little suddenly before the holiday weekend so a lot of folks, like me, missed it. But as the political continues to intersect with the personal because of legislation as in North Carolina, uncomfortable conversations are vital to inform the issues. Kudos to Triangle and TheatreLab for initiating and promoting Spectrum, which offers classes and workshops for LGBT high school students with a focus on creating new original theater pieces. Students can apply at the Spectrum website, spectrumva.com.
Running: No need to weep: Chamberlayne Actors Theatre’s “Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell,” continues until June 4.
On deck: The aforementioned “Twelfth Night” from Quill opens June 2 at Agecroft Hall.