Virginia Rep to Celebrate 60th Anniversary with STEEL MAGNOLIAS, 7/12-8/25

Virginia Repertory Theatre celebrates the 60th anniversary of the founding of Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern with a production of Steel Magnolias featuring an all-star cast. The show opens on Friday, July 12, 2013 at Hanover Tavern, 13181 Hanover Courthouse Road, and runs through August 25, coinciding with the official anniversary on August 1. Sixty years ago in 1953, six actors, two children, a dog and two pigs moved into a historic ruin called Hanover Tavern. The transplanted New Yorkers founded Central Virginia's first professional theatre and named the company in memory of a deceased college friend, Barbara Barksdale.

When the founders, Muriel McAuley and Pete and Nancy Kilgore, learned that their new neighbors looked forward to eating on evenings out, they combined favorite recipes and created the nation's first dinner theatre. They lived upstairs, performed downstairs, and served hearty meals in the historic rooms that fell in between. The restaurant at Hanover Tavern continues to serve dinner to theatre patrons today.

Bruce Miller, Artistic Director for Virginia Rep, loves to talk about the history of Barksdale Theatre and its importance in the regional theater movement in the early to mid 1900's. "The movement to decentralize American theater created the first professional theaters outside of New York. Virginia's Barter Theatre, (founded in 1933), Houston's Alley Theatre (founded 1947), and Washington's Arena Stage (founded in

1950), were all founded as a part of this movement and our friends from New York, Muriel McAuley and Pete and Nancy Kilgore, were not far behind them. The founders of Barksdale Theatre were American theater pioneers, determined to establish a regional theater of national standing in Central Virginia. Early Barksdale press releases reflect the founders' goals to contribute to this new model of professional theater. When Barksdale and Theatre IV merged last year, forming Virginia Repertory Theatre, we all took a huge step toward transforming that dream into reality, and we are honored to continue their legacy."

In the seasons that followed 1953, Pete, Muriel and Nancy produced Greater Richmond's first professional productions of plays by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill, George Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward, Thornton Wilder, William Inge and Edward Albee. The founders also became dynamic civic leaders. In defiance of Jim Crow laws, Barksdale was Virginia's first performing arts organization to open its doors to integrated audiences and in 1973, Barksdale produced Virginia's first professional play based on the African American experience, Lorraine Hansberry's To Be Young, Gifted and Black.

Virginia Rep is delighted to stage Steel Magnolias as the anniversary production. This heart-warming comedy by Robert Harling is set in Northwest Louisiana, and based on the author's own experience with the death of his sister. Six strong, southern women gather regularly at Truvy's beauty salon to have their hair done and to share stories, recipes, triumphs, and loss. Under the direction of Steve Perigard, the show assembles some of Richmond's most beloved female actors.

Steve Perigard's directing talent is well known in the Richmond area where his work has been seen on the stages of Virginia Rep, Cadence Theatre, Richmond Shakespeare, Firehouse Theatre, Theatre Virginia, SPARC, Theatre VCU, Randolph Macon College, and Company of Fools. In addition to Steel Magnolias, Steve's directing credits this past season include The Pillowman for Cadence Theatre, Hay Fever for Virginia Rep, and The Comedy of Errors for Richmond Shakespeare. Steve is on the adjunct performance faculty at SPARC and will be teaching and directing at Collegiate School in the fall.

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