Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV announce that the two nonprofit theaters will formally merge effective July 1, 2012 under a new name - Virginia Repertory Theatre (Virginia Rep). With a budget exceeding $5 million, four distinct venues, and an annual audience over 550,000, Virginia Rep will become the largest professional theater and one of the largest performing arts organizations in Central Virginia along with the Richmond Ballet, Richmond Symphony, and the Virginia Opera. Barksdale and Theatre IV celebrated the announcement and the unveiling of the new Virginia Rep sign today, May 20, at the November Theatre (formerly the Empire Theatre) at 114 West Broad Street at 4:00 p.m. after the closing of Seussical, thelast mainstage children's production under the Theatre IV name. Virginia Rep will transition into the new organization between now and July 1.
With 47 full time employees and over 400 part-time and contracted actors, teaching artists, administrative personnel, and production staff, Virginia Rep provides consistent employment to many of the area's finest professional theater artists and is Central Virginia's only professional theater to perform under a seasonal contract with Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. Annual mainstage productions total over 450 performances on four stages, and the touring arm reaches over 400,000 students annually in Virginia and 32 states. According to external calculations by Virginians for the Arts in 2008, The Combined economic impact of Barksdale and Theatre IV exceeds $23 million, the largest of any independent arts organization in Central Virginia.
Managing Director, Phil Whiteway, says the process has been years in the making. "We are thrilled to finally bring our two theaters together. The merger reflects the real impact that our organizations make on the Central Virginia community and creates a more efficient and sustainable nonprofit structure, eliminating duplication and positioning us for national funding. Our new single identity with a common website and messaging better serves all our constituents and establishes a clear continuum of programming for children, families, schools and adults."
Virginia Rep will continue to produce or co-produce three adult seasons and one children's season in addition to our educational touring plays. Bruce Miller, Artistic Director for Virginia Rep, says the mission of Virginia Rep will not change. "While the merger positions the theater as a more solid, forward thinking organization, our artistic goals have not waivered. We will continue to provide high quality theatre that speaks to us artistically and appeals to the entire Richmond community, including new works, dramas, musicals, children's theater, comedies, and classics. Our commitment to produce art for the community's sake has only been elevated and we are more dedicated than ever to enhancing our community through theater arts and outreach."
Founded in 1975 by Bruce Miller and Phil Whiteway, Theatre IV was the first professional children's theater in Virginia. What began as a small touring group with a focus on education and children's health and safety, has evolved to become the second largest children's theater in America, known for its educational touring arm and acclaimed season of mainstage productions for children and families. This coming season marks the 30th anniversary of Hugs and Kisses, a musical play that teaches children awareness about sexual abuse and provides the language they need to communicate with a trusting adult about inappropriate behavior. This award-winning production is The Commonwealth of Virginia's principal child sexual abuse prevention program. In 2002, Theatre IV's Buffalo Soldier, inspired by the life of Richmond centenarian Jones Morgan, became the first professional production to be performed inside the Pentagon, as a morale booster after 9/11.
Established at the historic Hanover Tavern in 1953 by six actors from New York, Barksdale Theatre was Central Virginia's first professional performing arts organization and our nation's first dinner theater. Under the forty- year leadership of Pete and Nancy Kilgore and Muriel McAuley, Barksdale Theatre brought America's most acclaimed works to a Greater Richmond stage and produced the state's first professional production of a play based on African American experience. In 1954, Barksdale became the first performing arts organization in Virginia to defy segregationist laws and perform before a racially mixed audience. In 1996 Barksdale moved to Willow Lawn to accommodate Tavern renovations. In 2001, Bruce Miller and Phil Whiteway assumed the leadership of Barksdale Theatre. They re-established the season at the renovated Hanover Tavern in 2006 and continued the Barksdale Signature Season at Willow Lawn. Since 2001, Barksdale and Theatre IV have shared management and some resources, but continued to operate as two separate nonprofit organizations with two boards, two budgets, and two communication systems.