We are barely three weeks into 2015 and it is already proving that it will be an incredibly exciting year for Richmond. Development projects of all kinds continue to pop up all over town, and those started in the past year continue to barrel forward: the Quirk boutique hotel is slated to open later this year just down the street from us, revitalization efforts for the Central National Bank building and the historic Main Street Station Shed continue, and preparation for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships has begun. Even with the ice and cold temperatures that January has brought, Richmond is buzzing with activity from the West End to Church Hill.
The Central National Bank Building as seen from the front door of The Basement
We at TheatreLAB are certainly doing our best to keep pace with the pulse of the city in these
first few weeks of the year. Here’s a recap of what’s been in progress for TheatreLAB since
We have launched the second leg of our capital campaign, dubbed “Crossing the
Threshold,” and in less than 5 days, we have raised more than $3,000! Every cent raised
will be used towards the completion of our bathrooms, the installation of our HVAC
system, and will help us take big steps towards becoming fully ADA compliant and
Speaking of- we are in the middle of construction of our very own, brand new
bathrooms! In the upcoming days and weeks there will be fresh concrete poured, walls
framed in, fixtures installed, lights hung, and more! It may seem silly to be this excited
over new toilets, but anyone who has overseen a renovation project (or made the hike
upstairs during the run of Hedwig) should understand our giddiness.
We wrapped up the inaugural session of SPECTRUM, our LGBTQ youth outreach
program produced in partnership with Richmond Triangle Players, this past Sunday to a
sold out house for the world premiere performance of their original piece, LET HER LIV*.
Adriana Green, our Director of Diversity & Mentorship for SPECTRUM, will be stopping
by the LABlog later this week with more on that, so stay tuned!
As the Acts of Faith Theatre Festival kicks off all over town, we have begun rehearsals
and production meetings for the first of our two participating productions, Oblivion. Our
cast presented a short scene at this past Sunday’s Festival Preview event, where each
participating Mainstage production was giving the opportunity to showcase a snippet of
their show. This year, between the Mainstage and Fringe offerings, the festival will
include 25 shows from a total of 18 theatres. It would be difficult to see every single
production, but I’m certainly going to try!
Our production team for our second Acts of Faith Festival offering, when last we flew, is
excitedly preparing for pre-production, speaking with the playwright, planning rehearsal
and meeting schedules with our incredible team, and finalizing set and light concepts.
We have revealed our new logo, launched our revamped website, and announced 5
additions to our staff! If the past three weeks are any indication, 2015 will be a huge
year for us at TheatreLAB, and there’s no way it would happen without the tireless
support of our new staff members. You’ll hear from more of them in the upcoming
weeks, so, again, stay tuned to the LABlog!
In the grand scheme of things, three years is a flash in the pan- especially in comparison to some of the other theatres in town who have been in business for 25, 30, even 50+ years. But personally, I have gained a lifetime’s worth of knowledge since March of 2012, and could never have imagined back then that we would be where we are now. Since our inception, Deejay and I have been given more support than we could have imagined by our family, friends, and the community as a whole. Back in the early days, TheatreLAB was primarily a passion project, something we loved doing, so throwing ourselves in heads first didn’t exactly feel scary. We were producing theatre we loved with incredible artists, supporting other theatres in the area with our volunteers, and audiences were getting on board with what we were doing withhardly any coercion. What’s that old saying? “A rolling stone gathers no moss”? Well, we definitely weren’t gathering any moss, but a landslide of other rolling stones were now rolling along with us. By the beginning of 2013, we had outgrown our humble beginnings and had a decision to make: were we ready to take off the training wheels, and really commit to being the professional theatre company we knew we could be? To show our audiences and this community that we weren’t “Those Darn Kids Putting on Some Plays”? The answer was a resounding YES. So we took our shows on the road and starting producing all over the city.
We worked harder than we ever had before, partnering with venues and companies from Scott’s Addition to Manchester, begging and borrowing whatever rehearsal spaces we could find, and building plans for our first full season. But before we could even start our inaugural season in December of 2013, while touring spaces we could rent for a show, we stumbled upon an unassuming basement in Downtown Richmond that stopped us cold. This wasn’t a space to drop in, produce one show, and then leave. Aside from it being far from ready to host an audience, and more importantly: it felt like a home. Despite the graffiti-marked door, crumbling plaster, and layers of dirt coating the concrete floor, we knew that we had found a diamond in the rough, hiding under the sidewalk on Broad Street. The beautiful exposed brick, the entrance that led straight up to the street corner, even the alcove cut into the wall to house a boiler in decades past that was now empty and the perfect size for a light and sound booth… everything seemed to fit. Finding our own venue was hardly within our 5-year plan, but the space was absolutely perfect. Once again, we had a decision to make: renovating and managing our own venue would be incredible, but also an enormous undertaking, one that would necessitate calling on every person we knew to help make it a reality. So we buckled down, did our research, and then decided to make the leap.
Left: the door before it received any TLC
Right: our door after a face-lift & in the process of being painted our signature TheatreLAB blue
I could write pages upon pages detailing what it took to make it from signing our lease in
February of 2014 to the opening of our first show in the space in October, but I won’t- just
listing the names of the people who helped make it possible would take up a good 7 pages.
What we realized as the year went on is that TheatreLAB had become something so much
bigger than we had predicted it would in such a short span of time. The idea of it being just a
passion project had been left in the dust miles behind us. And to make it our life’s work, to
make it possible for TheatreLAB to truly flourish, we needed more help. We began speaking
with some of our most loyal collaborators about joining our team in a more official capacity-
and long story short, here we are. We have an incredible group of peers on staff with us now,
who all have the exact same passion and desire for TheatreLAB to thrive. With their help, and
the continued support of this incredible city, we can’t wait to look back on January 1st, 2016
and see how much farther we’ve traveled.
Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!