After nearly three years of pandemic-related upheavals to live performance, there’s a distinctive energy that is shared by Coastal Virginia’s arts curators. “Knock on wood,” they say, as they talk about the seasons they have lovingly put together. “Fingers crossed,” they add, as they imagine crowds of theatergoers in houses that have stood eerily empty, dust motes sifting past empty prosceniums and crushed-velvet seats.
Virginia Stage Company (VSC) Managing Director Jeff Ryder shares the sentiment as he looks toward the VSC’s dynamic 44th season. “The first thing that I’m excited about is to do a full season of theater on our stage,” says Ryder.
He says that the season will begin with two powerhouse shows that had to be cancelled in previous years, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Hobbit. VSC’s season offerings will include the company’s blend of favorites like A Merry Little Christmas Carol and Shakespeare’s Henry V with modern tours de force like Pearl Cleage’s Angry, Raucous, and Shamelessly Gorgeous, fast-paced comedy whodunnit The 39 Steps and a 90-minute one-woman play about Nina Simone.
“I think we’ve got an exciting lineup that’s representative of what we do best,” says Ryder.
Local collaborations have been an important part of the VSC’s mission. For the upcoming season, VSC will be continuing collaborations with the Norfolk State University Theatre Company and the Governor’s School for the Arts. Last season, the NSU Theatre Company and VSC coproduced Dream Girls, which was directed by NSUTC Artistic Director Anthony Stockard, and this season the two organizations will coproduce Shakespeare’s Henry V.
“It’s a wonderful collaboration,” says Ryder. “It’s great for us to get to work with the students, and I think it’s wonderful for the students to have a professional theater experience at the Wells Theatre. And for our patrons to get to see the work that the students are doing, which is professional quality.”
This season VSC will collaborate with the Governor’s School for the Arts on The Hobbit, with some students performing in the cast and others working on production elements like set design.
Ryder stresses that though theater is back at VSC and in Coastal Virginia, there’s still a lot of work ahead, and the performing arts needs audience support.
“I hope that people will understand the challenges that we’re dealing with this year in particular,” he says. “We’re trying to continue doing what we do best, which is bring people together, tell important stories that need to be heard and do that in a professional theater setting. I hope that people will be excited to get back to the theater.”
For more information visit VaStage.org.