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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Footlights: Illuminating the Richmond Theater Scene

This Week: The Kids Are All Right

Posted By on Sun, Mar 20, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear a comment bashing millennials. “Twenty-somethings feel entitled” or “They want a trophy just for showing up” or, worst of all, “They’re all just lazy.”

Well, millennial bashers, meet Meg Carnahan. The 2015 graduate of James Madison University entered the Virginia Repertory Theatre intern program after commencement, where she travels every school day as a touring actor for the company’s “Hugs and Kisses” kids’ show. She also was doing up to six shows a week in the cast of “Gypsy” last fall before landing her current role as wayward daughter, Rosalind, in Chamberlayne Actors Theatre’s “Moon Over Buffalo.”

The nights she isn’t rehearsing or performing, she pulls shifts as a hostess at the Hill Café in Church Hill.

Carnahan remains cheerful and energetic despite the grueling schedule. She started out in local theater in fifth grade and says it’s hard to imagine not being involved.

“In the back of my mind, I wonder whether performing will always be my main occupation,” she says. “But my priority is for theater to be part of my life in whatever capacity possible.”

I asked Carnahan for her take on the ongoing prevalence of Richmond theaters to produce scripts that are decades old and have a distinctly dated perspective. “Buffalo” debuted in 1995 but is set in 1953; “Gypsy” hit Broadway in 1959 and is set in the 1920s and ’30s.

“What is unique about theater is that, even if you are doing a work that is 50 or 60 years old, it’s happening right now in front of you,” Carnahan says. “It’s not like a movie that’s frozen in time. So there are always new things you can take away from a show. If there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be any reason to keep doing Shakespeare.”

Both “Buffalo” and “Gypsy” feature characters who struggle as performers in regional theater. “I really empathize with these characters,” Carnahan says. “Theater is their whole life and they are facing scary questions: Is theater dying? Will TV and movies kill it?”

She has only positive sentiments about the local scene. “There’s been a significant change recently with companies such as TheatreLab, Cadence Theatre Company and the Firehouse Theatre doing contemporary works,” she says. “I think it’s a good sign of things to come.”

“Moon Over Buffalo” runs through April 2.

By the way: Virginia Rep made its 2016-’17 season announcement last weekend. Details are available online (http://va-rep.org/season_all2.html). Firehouse announced auditions for a summer production of the musical “American Idiot,” causing local Green Day fans to squeal with delight.

Running: The Richmond Triangle Players’ “Lazarus Syndrome” closes next weekend. Virginia Rep productions of “I Do! I Do!” and “Croaker: the Frog Prince Musical” continue into April.

On deck: Feed me, Seymour! The insatiable musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” gets a new staging at Swift Creek Mill, with previews starting March 24.

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