Press Release: October 19, 2012
|Acts of Faith Theatre Festival
5 North 5th Street
Richmond, VA 23219Contact: Terry Menefee Gau
Cell Phone: 804-304-8379
|Second Presbyterian Church
5 North 5th Street
Acts of Faith Theatre Festival
Richmond, VA. When Second Presbyterian Church founded the Acts of Faith Theatre Festival in 2005, no one fathomed the energy that would surround the festival nine years later. What began as a small collaboration among a few theatres and Second Presbyterian Church has grown to a full community wide event involving 16 theatres and close to 20 Christian, Jewish, and Islamic congregations.
Alex Evans, Pastor at Second Presbyterian Church says, “In this 9th year of the Acts of Faith Festival, we are excited by the growing number of faith communities and the fine commitment in the theater companies. This unique festival combines thoughtful conversations about faith and life with dramatic productions that inspire hearts and minds. People across the metro region get energized by the performances and the results include an increased sense of community, deeper insights about faith, and fresh perspectives on important issues. Additionally, we find ourselves more engaged in the city and striving for a better world. What else could we want? From the early signs in our faith communities and from the theater companies, this promises to be the best year ever.”
The theatre community feels the same way and recognizes the uniqueness of the collaboration. Bruce Miller, Artistic Director at Virginia Repertory Theatre comments, “Long before the birth of Christianity or Islam, theatrical and sacred traditions grew up together, with ritual performance developing as a vital component of religious practice. Today, Richmond’s Acts of Faith Festival plays a major, national leadership role in exploring the many ways in which, once again, theatre and faith are connecting in vital, positive ways.”
The festival’s impact on the theatre community is real, both in boosting patron numbers and pushing the theatres to think about their offerings. While the faith community supports the festival, the faith components in the plays are broad and often edgy. The faith and theatre communities agree that the success of the festival is in part due to an adherence to the artistic quality of the plays offered during the season. Of the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle nominations in 2012, seven plays from the Acts of Faith Festival were nominated; and at the October 14th ceremony, eight awards were granted to Acts of Faith Festival shows, including best play, August: Osage County produced by Cadence Theatre in partnership with Barksdale Theatre Gym.
The 2013 festival kicked off with the Acts of Faith Preview on Friday, January 18 at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre (formerly the Empire Theatre), 114 West Broad Street at 7:00 p.m. Last year’s Preview held a full house with over 400 patrons in attendance. Participating theatres will talk about their selected plays and present brief scenes to give a taste of the upcoming festival. This event is free and open to the public.
The festival will run January 18 through April 28, 2013. As in past years, metropolitan theater companies will offer a selection of plays and will sponsor discussions after many of the performances. Using theatre as a vehicle to illuminate the issues and questions, the Festival provides conversations about the arts and faith. These post-performance conversations are intended for audience participation and will include the play director, cast members, and theologians. Discussions will address topics such as why the play was chosen for the festival, how cultural norms and values are portrayed in the play, and how an individual play might impact one’s faith journey. In addition to the talkback sessions at the theatres, faith communities encourage adult and youth groups to see the plays together and continue the discussions. In 2012, approximately 1000 people attended nineteen talkbacks in addition to the hundreds of patrons who attended plays and held discussions on their own. Many theatres report attendance during the festival to be among the highest of any play in their annual season.
The Acts of Faith Fringe will highlight smaller events in the community taking place in celebration of the Acts of Faith Festival. This list may include shorter run productions or staged readings. The committee receives many requests to participate in the festival, which only allows for four non-professional groups as full participants. The Acts of Faith Fringe is a way to support the other events taking place in various faith communities.
As in past years, the 2013 festival offers something for everyone. Some plays have a direct religious reference such as Over the Tavern, Riding the Bull, Ecce, The Cotton Patch Gospel, and The Busy World is Hushed whichtells the story of a widowed Episcopal minister, hoping to translate a long-lost gospel while she is challenged by both her scholarly assistant and her wayward gay son. One of our offerings from the Islamic Community is The Madrassa Across Town, a timely story for both Muslims and non-Muslims about the faith of a young girl born to poverty but determined to maintain her faith while seeking an education and reaching for her dreams.
Other plays reveal faith through family dynamics such as The 13th of Paris, Before it Hits Home and My Name is Asher Lev. The Magic Flute and Closer to Thee highlights faith through the world of music. Classics such as The Tempest and Hay Fever highlight themes of existence, fate, and human society, while Faith Healer deals with lies and the subjectivity of truth. And finally, Sons of the Prophet is a hilarious comedy that looks at how we all deal with pain and suffering.
Many theatres offer discounts for groups or Acts of Faith participants and Richmond.com will offer ticket giveaways. Crossing religious and cultural lines, the festival provides Richmond with a venue for ecumenical conversations about faith and theatre and how they reveal our often-common beliefs while helping Richmond’s dynamic and diverse theatre community reach new audiences in a meaningful way.
Sponsors include Community Idea Stations, the Huntly Foundation, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Richmond.com.
Recent Co-sponsoring Faith communities have included Second Presbyterian Church (convening sponsor), Bon Air Presbyterian Church, Centenary United Methodist Church, Congregation Beth Ahabah, First English Lutheran, First Presbyterian Church, Gayton Kirk Presbyterian Church, Islamic Center of Virginia, St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, St. James’s Episcopal Church, St. John’s United Church of Christ, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Seventh Street Christian Church, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Union Presbyterian Seminary, and the Weinstein Jewish Community Center.
Participating professional theaters include Virginia Repertory Theatre at Willow Lawn, the November Theatre, and the Hanover Tavern; Cadence Theatre in partnership with Virginia Repertory; Chamberlayne Actors Theatre; Friends of Dogwood Dell; HATTheatre; Henley Street Theatre; Richmond Shakespeare; Richmond Triangle Players; Theatre Lab in partnership with Firehouse Theatre Project; and Sycamore Rouge. Associate theatresinclude: For Our Children Productions, The Islamic Theatre, Jewish Family Theatre, and The St. John Players.