Frankenstein, Nov. 16 at The American Theatre
Catharsis is a Greek word meaning “cleansing” or “purification.” It was used by Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to describe how theater patrons were purged of their own negative emotions by watching tragic plays that were popular in those days. By experiencing pity, sorrow, sympathy and even laughter, play attendees could feel an emotional relief that helped unburden them from their troubles.
Are you ready for your catharsis? Coastal Virginia venues are more than happy to help. Here’s what a few are offering up for the 2018/2019 season.
The American Theatre
Located in the rapidly resurging Hampton neighborhood of Phoebus, The American Theatre is anxiously awaiting the start of their 31st anniversary. “One of my priorities when I came here more than three years ago, in terms of expanding the vision of The American Theatre, was to really reinforce and re-energize the sensibility of community engagement,” says Richard M. Parison, Jr., artistic director of The American Theatre and sister Hampton Arts program, The Charles Taylor Visual Arts Center. “I wanted to make the American Theatre like a Coastal Virginia living room so that people can come here, be comfortable and feel like they are at a gathering place of artists from around the world and around the corner. So I never want to bring anything into the theatre that makes people think it’s not for them or there is an elitist or high-art sensibility to it. We like to think The American Theatre is like a boutique experience, where people can come in, the ushers know their names, and they’re sitting no further than 60 feet away from the artists or performers. And we want to do that at an affordable cost.”
As part of that initiative, Parison wanted to focus on making sure everything in the upcoming season was accessible by eliminating as many cost barriers as possible. They have implemented a new ticketing/marketing program called “35 for All,” which means the base ticket price on every seat in the house will never be more than $35. Family Fun Series events will be priced at just $10 per person.
An Evening with Branford Marsalis, Feb. 16 at The American Theatre.
The season kicks off after The American Theatre’s 31st Anniversary Gala on Saturday, Sept. 29. The event will feature Virginia native and Tony Award nominee Emily Skinner. Here are other notable events coming for the Theatre’s 31st anniversary:
- Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Oct. 13
- The Capitol Steps: Orange is the New Barack, Oct. 17–18
- An Evening with Lynda Carter, Oct. 27
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Oct. 31
- Chinese Warriors of Peking, Nov. 9
- Frankenstein, Nov. 16
- The Manhattan Transfer Holiday Show, Dec. 1
- Coastal Virginia Bluegrass & Brew Festival, Jan. 25–27
- The Havana Cuba All-Stars, Feb. 10
- An Evening with Branford Marsalis, Feb. 16
- The Jungle Book, March 23
- An Acoustic Evening with Shawn Colvin, April 13
For a complete listing of upcoming shows, visit HamptonArts.net/The-American-Theatre.
As mentioned previously, in addition to the performing arts, Hampton Arts also encompasses the visual arts at The Charles Taylor Visual Arts Center. Visit HamptonArts.net/The-Charles-Taylor-Visual-Arts-Center for upcoming events.
In addition to their own productions, the Sandler Center will be bringing back all of their resident companies, including the Virginia Arts Festival, Virginia Musical Theatre and Ballet Virginia International. Visit the Sandler Center website’s “About” section for a list of the resident companies.
Megan Boyle, marketing manager for the Sandler Center, recommends people check the website often because there are many shows in the works that have not been announced yet. “We’ll be announcing shows throughout the season as we get them booked,” she says. “There are a lot of exciting shows coming, so keep checking back with us.”
Here are some of the upcoming shows that have already been announced:
- The Fun Show with Cat and Nat, Sept. 22
- Steven Curtis Chapman, Oct. 6
- The Price is Right Live!, Oct. 15
- The Tenors, Oct. 22
- Take Me to the River, Oct. 30
- Toto: 40 Trips Around the Sun, Nov. 6
- Daughtry: Cage to Rattle Tour, Nov. 16
- Moscow Ballet, Nov. 27 and 28
- Bobby Bones Red Hoodie Comedy Tour with special guest, Maggie Rose, Dec. 1
Additional shows will be added regularly. Visit SandlerCenter.org often so you won’t miss a thing.
In addition to a sparkling new website, the Virginia Opera is introducing a few other changes this year that they are very excited about. “We have a new artistic director, Adam Turner,” says Lana Sadowski, director of marketing for the Virginia Opera. “He was formally our principle conductor, and he will continue to conduct all four of our productions this season. We have a really jaw-dropping season because we have three of the top 10 operas in the world out of the four productions we’ll be featuring. There’s also an interesting new season Adam came up with that we’re calling the New 2018–2019 Variations Series. We’re doing everything at the Opera House, but we’re moving them around. One will be in the Grand Lobby, one will actually be on the stage, and one we’re hoping to put in the wonderful gymnasium that has so much history.” Some of that history includes a performance by Elvis Presley, a sermon from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Richard Nixon saluting his victory in the 1968 presidential campaign.
These “second series” show tickets are priced at just $20 and are being offered to introduce opera to those who may not have checked it out and might want to give it a try. Each will be followed by a reception to meet the artists.
These are coming to the main stage this season:
- Street Scene, September/October 2018
- Don Giovanni, November/December 2018
- The Elixir of Love, February 2019
- Madama Butterfly, March 2019
The 2018–2019 Variations Series will include these:
- An Affair to Remember: The Love Story of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, Sept. 20
- Short Works Sample: featuring a trio of 10–20-minute opera “shorts” and more, Jan. 10
- An American Dream, April 4 and 5
Virginia Stage Company
“There are a few things I’m extremely excited about this season,” says Tom Quaintance, producing artistic director for the Virginia Stage Company. “First, Chris Hanna is coming back to direct Our Town. It’s being designed by Narelle Sissons, and that’s the team that worked on Streetcar for us two seasons ago. I’m really excited about the way in which they are reimagining the Wells Theatre. The set for it, I think, is going to be very exciting and transformative in terms of the way in which the audience will experience this great American classic. Second, we did some early auditions for Fun Home to see if we could find some local people to cast. It is one of the best American musicals I’ve seen in the last decade. It’s unusual for Virginia Stage Company to be grappling with a musical with not only the LBGTQ issues in the principle characters but also because it’s an all-female writing team and it deals with suicide and depression. But we found a young lady locally who I think is going to be the breakout star for our season.
This season, the Virginia Stage Company presents the following:
- Always… Patsy Cline, Sept. 12–30
- Our Town, Oct.17–Nov. 4
- A Christmas Carol, Nov. 20–Dec. 23
- The Santaland Diaries, Dec. 6–16
- Fun Home, Jan. 23–Feb. 10
- Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, March 6–24
- Native Gardens, April 10–28
- Roald Dahl’s Matilda, The Musical, May 22–June 2
For additional information and tickets, visit VaStage.org/Season40.
Virginia Musical Theatre
Mark Hudgins, executive director of the Virginia Musical Theatre, is very excited about their 28th season. “Our artistic director is a guy by the name of Chip Gallagher,” he says. “Chip is the head of the musical department at The Governor’s School for the Arts, and he has come up with a dynamite season for us. We’re very excited that Newport News Shipbuilding has signed on to be our season sponsor this year, and this will be our 11th year at the Sandler Center as one of their resident companies. We’ve been doing all of our shows there since the Sandler Center opened in 2007.”
Hudgins is also thrilled to have some previous cast members returning this year, bringing some serious star power from Broadway and beyond. “Robert Anthony Jones just came off a national tour of Phantom of the Opera, and he has done Finding Neverland on Broadway. This will be his third time performing with us, but it’s been a long time since he’s been on a VMT stage. We’re also bringing back Scott McGowan. This will be the second time Scott has come to us after being in our production of Legally Blonde about five seasons ago.”
These are on tap for this season:
- La Cage aux Folles, Oct. 12–14
- Seussical The Musical, Dec. 7–9
- Mary Poppins, March 1–2
- Sister Act, The Musical, April 26–28
“Tickets are available now,” says Hudgins. “But I’ll be honest with you. I’ve had so many groups call about Mary Poppins already. That show is going to sell out fast. So if you want tickets, get them now. And don’t forget that the best deals are for season subscriptions.”
For additional information and tickets, visit VMTheatre.org.