Last weekend, Virginia Stage Company opened its new, immersive production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at the Wells Theatre. Our Town follows ordinary lives in a fictional town called Grover’s Corners in the early 20th century. The play within a play is a celebration of joys, pains, promises, and the human experience; it’s beloved as a standard of theater in American high schools, begging the question, “What will Virginia Stage do differently?”
(1897-1975) was a novelist and playwright whose works celebrate the connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of human experience. He is the only writer to win Pulitzer Prizes for both drama and fiction: for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and two plays, Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth. His other novels include The Cabala, The Woman of Andros, Heaven’s My Destination, The Ides of March, The Eighth Day and Theophilus North. His other major dramas include The Matchmaker (adapted as the musical Hello, Dolly!) and The Alcestiad. The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden, Pullman Car Hiawatha and The Long Christmas Dinner are among his well-known shorter plays. He enjoyed enormous success as a translator, adaptor, actor, librettist and lecturer/teacher and his screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt remains a classic psycho-thriller to this day. Wilder’s many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. More information on Thornton Wilder and his family is available in Penelope Niven’s definitive biography, Thornton Wilder: A Life (2013) as well as on the Wilder Family website, www.thorntonwilder.com
(Director) has dedicated 35 years towards the overlapping missions of developing new plays, breathing fresh air into dramatic classics, and engaging communities in the power of live theater. He presently serves as Artistic Director Emeritus at Virginia Stage, having joined the Wells’ family in Season 5, and is Director of Theatre at Old Dominion University. Between the two venues, he has staged over 50 productions for the Hampton Roads community. Career highlights before arriving in Virginia include serving as Resident Director at the Juilliard School, working on the play development staffs of London’s Royal Court Theater and the New York Shakespeare Festival, and eight seasons as Artistic Associate for the Chautauqua Theater Company in New York. He holds an MFA in Directing from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and is a member of SDC (Society of Directors and Choreographers).
(Scenic Designer) BROADWAY: All My Son's at The Roundabout Theatre. OFF BROADWAY: How I Learned To Drive [original production] and Stop Kiss [original production], In The Blood [original production], Kit Marlowe [original production], Julius Caesar and Little Flower of East Orange [original production] at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre. Also in NYC many productions with: Mabou Mines, LAByrinth Theatre Company [co-member], Playwrights Horizons, WPP and New York Theatre Workshop. INTERNATIONAL: Jesus Hopped the A Train director Philip Seymour Hoffman, London and New York; Mabou Mines Dollhouse director Lee Breuer, USA and World Tour. Also The Syringa Tree in Vienna Austria and Frankfurt Germany, Sokrates: A Banquet in Prytaneion at VAT Theatre Estonia. GRANTS, NOMINATIONS AND EXHIBITIONS: Fulbright Specialists, Drama Desk nomination, Helen Hayes nomination, Elliot Norton nomination, Kevin Kline award nomination amongst others and exhibitor at Prague Quadrennial 2007 and 2011.
JANE ALOIS STEIN
(Costume Designer) Stein’s costume designs include the Off Broadway productions of Bill W. and Dr. Bob for the New World Stages, Lebensraum for the Miranda Theatre, Persphone at BAM. Regional Theatre credits include Adam Rapp's Animals and Plants for American Repertory Theatre; Painting It Red for Berkeley Repertory; Sweeney Todd for Connecticut Repertory Theatre; Uncle Broadway at the Royal George Theatre of Chicago. Work at other theatres include designs for Virginia Stage Company, The Barter Theatre, Commonwealth Shakespeare, 20 productions for Gloucester Stage Company, 19 productions for Merrimack Repertory Theatre, North Shore Music Theatre, Theatre by The Sea. Opera productions include designs for The Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and the Boston Musica Viva. Jane is the head of Costume Design/Technology for the Theatre Department of Virginia Tech where she has taught since 2006. Prior to VT she was the Costume and Set Design Instructor at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. She is a member of United Scenic Artists local 829, USITT, USITT Chesapeake – 2nd vice-chair, and Costume Society of America.
(Lighting Designer) previously designed Disgraced, and The Santaland Diaries at VSC. Other credits include: Frankenstein (Core Theatre Ensemble), The Importance of Being Earnest (Goode Theatre), Choir Boy (Zeiders American Dream Theatre), The Cripple of Inishmaan (Little Theater of Norfolk), and The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare (Annie Russell Theatre).
(Sound Designer) is the resident sound engineer at the Virginia Stage Company. Usually you can find him mixing musicals at the Wells such as The Wiz, Ring of Fire, Always...Patsy Cline, and the newest version of A Christmas Carol, but is glad to have the opportunity to put a design of his own in motion again. His past designs at Virginia Stage Company include: A Streetcar Named Desire, The Santaland Diaries, and Pride and Prejudice. He is happy to be working with this cast and production staff to put another production together.
(Stage Manager) Off-Broadway credits include The Velveteen Rabbit, The JAP Show, Confessions of an Irish Rebel (Irish Arts Center), Young Playwrights Festival, Lifegame, Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, Stop Kiss (Public), Mizlansky/Zilinsky or ‘Shmucks’, Psychopathia Sexualis (both Manhattan Theatre Club), Life Is A Dream (Pearl), Lonely Planet, The Professional, The Truth Teller (all Circle Rep) and Das Barbecü. Regionally, Rafi has worked at Lincoln Center Theatre, Actors’ Shakespeare Festival, WHAT, Stoneham Theatre, Depot Theatre, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Foothills Theatre Company, New Repertory Theatre, The Miniature Theatre of Chester, Centenary Stage Company, Barter Theater, Northern Stage, PCPA Theaterfest, Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center, Maine State Music Theatre and Paper Mill Playhouse. Additionally, Rafi has worked for Jim Henson Productions, Walt Disney Theatrical Productions, and has stage managed clown school and shows for the NY Musical Theater Festival. A proud member of Equity, Rafi holds a degree in computer science from Brandeis University.
(listed in alphabetical order)
BEATTY BARNES, JR.
(Dr. Gibbs) is excited to be making his sophomoric performance with the Virginia Stage Company! A touring stand-up comedian with performances from New York and Los Angeles and in between. Beatty's theatrical productions include, Othello as the Moore with the Elizabeth River Company as well as Iago with CORE Theatre Ensemble, Lincoln from the Pulitzer Prize winning play Topdog/Underdog, Bobo from the Virginia Stage Company production of A Raisin in the Sun, and many more. Beatty sends an extended thanks to all those involved in the arts and a big thank you to YOU for supporting Live entertainment.
(Sam Craig) a native of Norfolk, Virginia, is a graduating senior at Norfolk State University studying in Drama & Theatre. He fell in love with theatre at the age of nine and has been one with the stage ever since. He has been seen in a plethora of productions, just to name a few, Jitney, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Ruined, Fences, The Wiz, The Color Purple, and TopDog/Underdog. Corey would like to give an honor to God for His unwavering love, grace and mercy in his life; his mother and brother, who have been his strongholds and greatest support system; and all those who have continued to be positive influences in his life.
(Joe Crowell/ Si Crowell) is excited to be perform for the first time at The Wells Theatre and for his first professional performance. Jack is a junior at Salem High School and part of the VPAA Theater Strand. He was last seen in Salem's High School's production of Our Town and is ecstatic to be part of the experience once again. Jack is also grateful to finally be working with his Father, John Cauthen, in this production and wants to thank his friends and family for amazing support.
(Simon Stimson) John’s previous appearances at Virginia Stage Company include Pride and Prejudice, The Parchman Hour: Songs and Stories of the ‘61 Freedom Riders, All My Sons, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. A former high school English teacher, John enjoys performing in local productions of Pulitzer Prize winners like RENT at Williamsburg Players; Clybourne Park, Doubt, and Harvey at Peninsula Community Theatre; August Osage County and Rabbit Hole at The Little Theatre of Virginia Beach; and Long Day’s Journey into Night at Generic Theater. John is also proud to share the stage with his son Jack.
(Emily) makes her Virginia Stage Company debut with Our Town. National Tour: Gypsy (Louise). NYC: The Battles (Machiavelli). Regional: East Coast premiere of Summer of Love (Holly) at Ogunquit Playhouse, Young Frankenstein (Inga) and The Producers (Ulla) at Fulton Theatre. Gypsy (Louise), Young Frankenstein (Inga) and Mary Poppins at MSMT. The All Night Strut at Portland Stage, Kiss Me Kate (Lois/Bianca), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Millie), Nice Work If You Can Get It (Billie), Agnes of God (Agnes) with Talia Shire and Susan Sullivan. TV: SMASH. BFA Hofstra University. Love and thanks to her parents, teachers, pups, CTG, and husband, Jon.
(Rebecca Gibbs) is thrilled to be making her Virginia Stage Company debut! Back in 2010, Our Town was the first show she worked deck crew for as a freshman pursuing a B.A. in Theater Arts at Virginia Tech. Doing this production is a full circle moment for her. Felicia would like to thank her professors for sharing their knowledge and encouragement, her family and friends for their endless love and support, and her director for allowing her to be a part of this experience.
(Mr. Webb) is so glad to be back at Virginia Stage Company! Previous VSC credits include A Christmas Carol (Bob Cratchit) and Oliver Twist (Bill Sikes). He has also performed locally with Tidewater Stage in Dial 'M' for Murder (Max), the 39 Steps (Hannay), and Freud's Last Session (C.S. Lewis). John received his MFA in Acting from Regent University (2018) where he appeared in the Women of Lockerbie (Bill), the Mystery of Edwin Drood (Jasper), and Oklahoma! (Jud), among many others. NYC and regional credits include productions with the American Globe Theatre, Judith Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Dallas, Amphibian Stage Productions, and Dallas Children's Theatre.
(Howie Newsome) University of Southern Mississippi (BFA in Theatre Performance) Regent University (MFA in Acting) A Mississippi native, Lyeneal is making his debut with Virginia Stage Company and is thrilled to be in Grover’s Corners! Regional: The Christians (Associate Pastor Joshua), Hamlet (Horatio). Many thanks to cast, crew, friends, and family. lyenealgriffin.com
(The Stage Manager) Broadway: Miss Erikson in Present Laughter (starring Kevin Klein), Miss Jones in How To Succeed in Business… (starring Daniel Radcliffe), Madame Giry in Phantom Of The Opera, The Music Man, Thou Shalt Not. Off-Broadway: Big Love (Eleanor) Signature Theatre. Shakespeare in the Park: Into The Woods (Cinderella’s Stepmother). National Tours: Mary Poppins (Miss Andrew), Disney’s High School Musical (Ms. Darbus), Mamma Mia (Tanya) and Sunset Boulevard. Regional favorites: Company (Joanne, Barrington Stage Company with Aaron Tveit; BTCA 2017 Award), Sweeney Todd (Mrs. Lovett, KC Rep), Animal Crackers (Mrs. Rittenhouse, Williamstown Theater Festival), Last Night of Ballyhoo (Boo Levy, Bay Street Theater), Pericles (Dionyza, Two River Theatre), Sister Act (Mother Superior, North Shore Music Theater), The Little Mermaid (Ursula, N.C. Theatre), and Gypsy (Mazeppa, The MUNY). TV: Martha Wilson on House of Cards, Gotham, Younger, and Partners. Proud owner of a rescue dog! Everything else: www.ellenharvey.net & @ellenharveynyc.
(Woman in the Box/Dead Woman) is so excited and grateful to be a part of this production. She is a Junior Theatre Performance Major at ODU. At ODU she was in Lysistrata (Calonice) and Time Flies (ensemble).
(George) Theatre Broadway: How To Succeed..., The Apple Tree, Mary Poppins; Off-Broadway: The New Group, Classic Stage Company; Tour: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; Regional: Sacramento Music Circus, Resident Ensemble Players, The Guthrie, Two River Theatre Company, San Francisco Symphony, Dallas Theatre Center, Kansas City Starlight, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, the MUNY, Pittsburgh CLO.Television “Get Christie Love” (pilot), “Power,” "I Love You, But I Lied," "Gossip Girl.” Education University of Michigan. www.justinarthurkeyes.com
(Joe Stoddard/Belligerent Man) has previously appeared with VSC as George Downing in With Your Name Upon My Lips (jointly produced with Core Theatre Ensemble) and as a guard in The Parchman Hour. Other recent performances include the roles of Trigorin in Aaron Posner's Stupid Fucking Bird at Generic Theater and King of France in Old Dominion University Theater’s Henry V. A long-time collaborative partner with the Thomas Jefferson Hour's Clay Jenkinson, he occasionally performs in the iconic graveyard scene as the gravedigger opposite Jenkinson's Hamlet. A career theater manager, he has served in leadership positions at various area arts organizations and is currently Executive Director of the TCC Roper Performing Arts Center.
(Mrs. Webb) holds an MFA in acting from Regent University. She is ever so glad to be in her 2nd production at Virginia Stage Company and grateful to be sharing this story with her fellow actors, crew, production staff, and you. Previous credit include a Maid in Pride and Prejudice (VSC), Crystal Allen in The Women (LTN), Shelby in Steel Magnolias (LTVB), Sue Snell understudy in Carrie the Musical (Generic Theatre), and Susannah Cibber in Joyful Noise (Regent University).
(Professor Willard) is thrilled to join the company of Our Town at Virginia Stage Company. Credits include Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (14th St Theatre, NYC), Company (Little Theatre of Norfolk), Haunting Julia (Little Theatre of Norfolk), development lab for I Sing the Rising Sea (Virginia Stage Company). Thank you to Chris Hanna for the opportunity, and love to my family.
(Mrs. Soames) was previously seen at VSC in last season’s The Parchman Hour. Favorite productions include Downrange: Voices From the Homefront, Henry V, Around the World in 80 Days, Macbeth, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Trojan Women, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Blood Wedding, The Serpent, and The Astonished Heart. B.F.A. from NYU and The Atlantic Theatre Company. Love and thanks to Tom, Miri, and Annika for all the love, patience and support.
(Wally Webb) is a sophomore at Governor’s School for the Arts and Maury High School. His previous appearances include Taming of the Shrew, The Philadelphia, Ragtime, and A Christmas Carol. He is thrilled to be back with The Virginia Stage Company! He would like to thank his acting teachers Steve Earle and Ricardo Melendez.
(Constable Warren) is proud to be celebrating VSC’S 40th anniversary with this production of Our Town. He is an actor, writer, director, producer, songwriter, musician, and host of The Rod Suiter Music Excursion. Former performances at VSC included Murry in The Odd Couple, Bono in Fences, as well as appearances in A Line in The Sand, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the inaugural production of Cat on A Hot Tin Roof. He is a former member of the Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Artistic Director of ZWG Repertory Theater and Tidewater Youth Impact Group, as well as former Vice President of On Cue Productions.
Nikki E. Walker
(Mrs. Gibbs) makes her Virginia Stage Debut. Stage: Lily Ann in Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse; Veronika in Dead & Breathing, National Black Theatre; Esther Mills in Intimate Apparel, Westport Playhouse, Syracuse Stage & Indiana Rep.; Mae in The Flag Maker of Market Street, Alabama Shakespeare Festival. TV/ Film: Blended, Orange is the New Black, Law & Order - SVU, Criminal Intent, Trial by Jury, Sex & the City. Training: LaGuardia HS Performing Arts, Boston University, and Moscow Arts Theatre at Harvard University.
Remembrances, Recollections, & Memorials
Help us collect stories in memory of the vibrant lives of the people who helped shape Hampton Roads and are no longer with us. Tell us about someone who inspired you, made a difference to you, or delighted you. Is there a story about your grandmother, a local business owner, a teacher, a mom, an artist, or a neighbor that we should all know? It is by understanding the people who shaped our community that we begin to process who we can be and how we can get there. Let’s find out more about #OurTown757!
What are some examples of what we are looking for?
In the early days of Virginia Stage Company, a small group of volunteers put a big project on their back and created the company we are today: do you know anyone who has founded a pivotal organization in Hampton Roads? Big or small, we want to hear about it all!
How will the story be captured?
We are collecting stories utilizing interviewers with voice recorders. Some may be transcribed for print use. You can come to us; we can arrange to come to you; and in special situations we will facilitate long-distance recordings.
What if I don’t know all the details?
Tell us what you do know, and we’ll do some investigative reporting!
Does it have to have a happy story?
Sometimes the most important stories aren’t all warm and fuzzy. We are interested in hearing about all of Hampton Roads, and that includes our difficult times as well as our joyous ones.
Do I have to tell/write/record it myself?
Not at all! If you know a story that we should hear, we will set up a recording session for you and an interviewer, assist you in putting the words on paper, or work to find the right person to interview.