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Patrons Shouldn't Be Blamed

It is indeed unfortunate that Benny Ambush's brief tenure at TheatreVirginia was ended by its demise ("Behind the Curtain," Feb. 26). The subscription base had been eroding for some time prior to his arrival, and therefore, Mr. Ambush can hardly be blamed for the theater's passing. Neither, however, should TheatreVirginia's former patrons.

Several passages in your recent article suggest that "close-mindedness" and a failure to embrace Mr. Ambush's agenda closed TheatreVirginia. I would assert that a simpler explanation could be that for some years the theater staff failed to present material that engaged and demanded an audience, resulting in a decreasing subscriber base and, ultimately, the theatre's demise. Rather than make this painful admission, Mr. Ambush seems to be taking refuge behind familiar barricades of race and class. He states "there was a missed opportunity for people to engage with me." Perhaps the opposite would be a more factual assessment. If playing the race-blame game is to his liking, perhaps Mr. Ambush should cease sending out resumes and immediately begin a bid for election to City Council.

Burke W. Huddleston

My wife and I have been subscribers to TheatreVirginia for 18 years. Over that period there have been many, many productions of plays by black playwrights and other plays with substantial numbers of African-American actors. Some that come to mind immediately are "Fences," "The Piano," another production by August Wilson, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," "Five Guys Named Moe," a totally black cast of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "I'm Not Rappaport," as well as a production this last season about a black couple who takes in a runaway, and many others which escape immediate recall.

If African-American playgoers will attend only black-themed productions, they certainly had lots of opportunity, and yet there were few black patrons to these or any of the other shows. The statement that the theater was not sufficiently diverse is hogwash. And by the way, my wife and I found pleasure in watching plays of all kinds. We would not have restricted ourselves to attending plays about middle-class Caucasians, although these could be entertaining and educational as well.

TheatreVirginia failed because of declining corporate sponsorship and an approaching lack of venue. Extra attendance certainly would have helped. To claim that lack of black patronage was due to "irrelevant" programming flies in the face of the history of TheatreVirginia.

Steven A. Linas

Clarifications and Corrections

The Healing Place (Street Talk, March 5) is not strictly a treatment center but rather a recovery program based upon a 12-step program.

The interiors of the new Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden education and library complex (Architecture, March 12) were designed by Richmond firm N.F.D. Inc.

Also, Richmond is about 350 miles from New York (Street Talk, March 12), and not 700 miles, which is a round-trip figure. Style regrets the errors.

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