One of the goals of Richmond Shakes is to make the classics the most accessible to the community as possible. According to Jase Sullivan, managing director of the theatre, the company is doing just that by changing its name and performance venue.
“We conducted an audience analysis and realized that there was a real disconnect between the name Quill [previous name] and our mission of bringing classic theatre to Richmond with Shakespeare as our foundation. With the Richmond Shakespeare Festival being our most recognized annual event, it just made sense to bring back our original name Richmond Shakespeare,” says Sullivan, who adds, “that’s Richmond Shakes for short.”
The theater company is focused on removing barriers for people to “find our work,” Sullivan adds. “For example, we now offer rush tickets for $22 in person at the box office one hour before curtain for every performance.”
Along with the new name, Richmond Shakes has a new home at the Gottwald Playhouse at Dominion Energy Center.
“It’s an intimate space that allows our patrons to really connect with the actors. There is not a bad seat in the house,” says Sullivan. “Plus, there are a plenty of of great restaurants within walking distance, which can make for a great evening of dining and entertainment.”
Richmond, like other cities and communities, needs a theater company like Richmond Shakes that aims to have a distinctive style and voice.
“We strive to defy expectation. We believe in the power of the spoken word and work to create theatre that is intelligent, passionate, and engaging,” says James Ricks, artistic director. “We pick plays that we feel strongly about … plays that are benchmarks in theatrical history because of their unique approach to a specific style or area of content.”
Choosing plays for the season is always a thoughtful, deliberate process. “We don’t simply try to pick shows that we think will be box office hits – we pray for that, of course – but, we believe in the strength of our mission and our community of artists who work so hard to bring these works to life,” Ricks says.
The theater’s next production is Uncle Vanya, running from January 26 through February 12. It’s a play that Richmond Shakes has been thinking about producing for a long time. “Just before the pandemic, a new adaptation came out from one of our favorite playwrights, Conor McPherson,” Ricks says, adding that it has a deeper resonance now “within the context of a world that has just experienced the isolation of a global pandemic.”
Ricks is excited about the season because the projects are unique and lesser produced than other Shakespeare plays – think All’s Well That Ends Well. [Read the RFM review here.]
“We took this piece that subverts fairy tale tropes and set it to playful, punkish aesthetic featuring a new wave/post punk soundtrack. We’re also doing a piece of Chekhov that delves deep into the subject of the choices we make as human-beings and how we deal with those choices, for better or for worse, featuring some of Richmond’s favorite actors,” Ricks says.
This summer, Richmond Shakes will produce Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors at the 2023 Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft Hall.
“It’s a show that all ages adore. We’re also doing an adaptation of Moliere’s play The Misanthrope by David Ives called The School For Lies, which is utterly hilarious,” Ricks says, adding, “There’s really nothing like experiencing live theatre out at Agecroft Hall under the stars.”