Special/Signature Issues » Top 40 Under 40

Chase Kniffen, 24

Artistic Associate, Theatre IV and Barksdale Theatre


Chase Kniffen's career is a testament to the power of dreaming big. Maybe starring on Broadway when he was barely a teenager — flying alongside gymnast Cathy Rigby in “Peter Pan” — convinced him that he could do anything. That was certainly the spirit behind his founding of the Stage 1 Theatre Company. Launched last year with business partner Peggy Thibodeau, the company quickly gained the affection of the local theater world. For its inaugural season, Stage 1 garnered 16 nominations for Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards, including two for Kniffen as best director.

But some dreams aren't sustainable, and financial pressure forced Kniffen to shutter the company this spring, a difficult — and some would say courageous — decision. His former employers at Theatre IV — where he'd started working while in his teens — were happy to welcome him back. He's had little time to settle into his new position. He organized the company's performances for the CenterStage grand opening and will be directing two of Theatre IV's next big productions, “A Christmas Carol” in December and “The Sound of Music” next spring. “I see my role as serving the existing audience but attracting new people, too,” he says. “I think Theatre IV and Barksdale are right on the cusp of becoming nationally recognized regional theaters.” Unfazed by his recent setback, Kniffen continues to think big.

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