Acts of Faith Theatre Festival Kicks Off 12th Season on Sunday, January 17, 2016 at the November Theatre
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 3, 2015
Richmond, VA. The Acts of Faith Theatre Festival kicks off its twelfth season of stories and dialogue surrounding the many faces of faith in this world. Supported by diverse religious communities in the Richmond Metro area, this award-winning Festival continues to be the largest faith-based theatre festival in the United States, with 17 area theatres offering 19 shows.
Rev. Alex Evans, pastor at Second Presbyterian Church, the convening sponsor of the Acts of Faith, says, “As we move into our 12th season, all of us connected to the Acts of Faith Festival are continuously enthused by the growing energy and sense of community that emerges from this intersection of faith and culture. People come together, engaged by top-quality dramatic productions, with thoughtful discussion that encourages reflection on important topics for faith and life. This, I believe, is metro Richmond at its very best - building civility, grace, conversation, and community. We are so delighted to be part of this continuing effort.”
Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith communities come together to sponsor The Acts of Faith Festival; while theatres that participate offer shows that reflect an even wider diversity of belief and tradition. The ecumenical basis of the Acts of Faith Festival and the variety of stimulating and sometimes challenging shows, keeps the Acts of Faith going strong.
Richmond area theatres continue to offer their best talent and skills to the Festival. The Richmond Theatre Critics Circle presented ten “Artsie” Awards to plays participating in the 2015 Acts of Faith Festival. Among the awards were Best Musical, Best Play, Best Actress in a Musical and in a Play, Best Actor in a Play, Best Supporting Actor in a Musical, and Best Supporting Actress in a Play.
The 2016 Festival kicks off with the Acts of FaithPreview on Sunday, January 17, 2016 at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre, 114 West Broad Street at 7:00 p.m. During the Preview event, participating theatres present brief scenes from their shows to give a taste of the upcoming Festival. The Preview is free and open to the public, making it extremely popular with Festival attendees. A full house is expected.
The Acts of Faith Festival runs from January 17 through March 31, 2016. Participating theatres choose plays with significant themes pertaining to faith. After designated performances, theatres host talk-backs, placing the audience in conversation with the cast, the director, and sometimes the playwright. Whether the show is a drama or comedy, musical or staged reading; stories of faith can sometimes veer into unfamiliar and difficult territory. But time and again, the more provocative stories tend to generate the deepest discussion. The Festival leaders hope that open and honest conversation about what matters most to all of us will expose our similarities despite our differences, engender a sense of community, and create a desire to deepen our faith. In 2015, over 1,700 people participated in post-show conversations at our theatres. Talk-backs continue to be the most meaningful aspect of this Festival. In addition to the post-show dialogue, the Festival encourages groups to see the plays together and continue the discussions beyond the theatre.
Professional theatres in the Richmond Metro area produce the Main Stage shows for the Acts of Faith Festival to ensure a high level of artistic quality and expertise. Three to four non-professional theatres are also invited to participate as Associated Theatres in the Festival to ensure diverse religious viewpoints that might not otherwise be explored on the Main Stage alone. The Acts of Faith Fringe rounds out the Festival by providing an opportunity to see independent shows that do not fall into the Main Stage or Associated categories.
In the 2016 Festival season, family dynamics and faith, both tragic and wickedly funny, come to the forefront. CAT Theatre is co-producing with 5th Wall Theatre the show Unexpected Tenderness, by Israel Horovitz. It is a story of a dysfunctional Jewish family trying to maintain normalcy in 1950’s Massachusetts. Richmond Triangle Players presents The Lazarus Syndrome, by Bruce Ward, where AIDS and survivor’s guilt meet with family baggage and belonging. TheatreLAB offers a vicious comedy of cousins fighting over their grandfather’s funeral in Bad Jews, by Joshua Harmon. Italian Catholic family dynamics, along with the delicious smell of ragu simmering on stage, will be featured in Virginia Rep’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday by Eduardo de Filippo at the November Theatre. And The Sisters Rosensweig, by Wendy Wasserman, offered by the Jewish Family Theatre, presents a portrait of three sisters coming together after a lengthy separation.
For those interested in exploring marriage and faith, Virginia Rep at Hanover Tavern presents the musical I Do! I Do! by Tom Jones. It is a nostalgic and humorous rediscovery of romance that follows two soul-mates through the joys and challenges of a fifty-year marriage. The Eggceptions are offering not just a play about marriage, but also workshops for those attending the performances. Their Eggceptions Plays & Love Resolutions Workshops by Jean Marie Wooley are offered over Valentine’s Day weekend for singles and couples wishing to strengthen their love in the New Year.
Freedom and faith is also a strong theme in this year’s Festival. Two shows feature Martin Luther King, Jr., and his struggle for peace, tolerance, and equality: Virginia Rep’s Children’s Theatre’s I Have a Dream by local playwright Bruce Craig Miller, and Cadence Theatre Company’s The Mountaintop by Katori Hall. Similarly, Swift Creek Mill offers the world premiere of The Little Lion by local playwright Irene Ziegler. It is a heroic story of a teenage Jewish boy who never stops fighting for his freedom during the Holocaust. Woven Orbits Theatre, brings Carrying the Load by local playwright Mahasin D. Shamsid-Deen, exploring freedom through education in one of the first African-American-owned parochial schools in 1930’s Detroit.
Comedy is well represented this year, as well, with The Fourth Wall by A. R. Gurney at Firehouse Theatre Company and Stupid F**king Bird by Aaron Posner at Quill Theatre. The Fourth Wall is a contemporary comedy of manners about the substance of reality, while Stupid F**king Bird is a dark comedy about the eternal struggle between artists and those who both inspire them and are destroyed by them.
Dramatic works always provide excellent discussion material for post-show talk-backs. HATTheatre presents Creating Claire by Joe DePietro, a story of an agnostic docent at a natural history museum, who suddenly discovers herself on the verge of faith. The Stable Theatre offers Catacombs by Paul McCusker, depicting a world where Christianity is all but abandoned and those still clinging to it are left hiding in the decay of a church.
Many participating theatres offer discounts for large groups, or for Acts of Faith participants, and Richmond.com will offer ticket giveaways during the Festival.
Sponsors include Community Idea Stations, the Huntly Foundation, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Richmond.com.
Co-sponsoring Faith communities include Second Presbyterian Church (convening sponsor), Bon Air Presbyterian Church, Centenary United Methodist Church, Congregation Beth Ahabah, First Presbyterian Church, Gayton Kirk Presbyterian Church, St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, St. James’s Episcopal Church, St. John’s United Church of Christ, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Participating professional theaters include 5th Wall Theatre, Cadence Theatre, CAT Theatre, Firehouse Theatre, HATTheatre, Quill Theatre, Richmond Triangle Players, Swift Creek Mill Theatre, TheatreLAB, and Virginia Repertory Theatre at Willow Lawn, the November Theatre, and the Hanover Tavern. Associate theatres include The Eggceptions, Jewish Family Theatre, The Stable Theatre, and Woven Orbits Theatre. Fringe theatres include The Gayton Kirk Three Penny Theatre, Huguenot Community Players, Richmond Catholic Theatre, and On the Air Radio Players.
For more information on the Acts of Faith, a listing of play dates and discussion forum times, and ticket information, go to www.theactsoffaith.org or call 804-514-4460.
The Huntly Foundation
Second Presbyterian Church is the convening sponsor of this collaboration between the faith community and professional theatre companies.