Tuesday, October 11, 2016

VCU Artist-in-Residence to Create Portrait of Maggie Walker Using Clothes

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 12:04 PM

Here is the last project Noah Scalin did using clothes -- an anamorphic portrait of African-American photographer James Conway Farley. - NOAH SCALIN
  • Noah Scalin
  • Here is the last project Noah Scalin did using clothes -- an anamorphic portrait of African-American photographer James Conway Farley.

Richmond artist Noah Scalin, who recently became the first artist-in-residence at the VCU School of Business, has announced his first pop-up project: It will be a portrait of the late Richmond icon Maggie Walker made out of arranged clothes.

The project will be called "Portrait of Innovation: Maggie Walker," and business students will arrange clothing donated by students, faculty and staff to create a 30-foot by 10-foot portrait of Walker based on a photograph provided by The Valentine museum, according to a press release.

A reception will be held upon its completion Monday, Oct. 17, at 1 p.m. The work stays on display at Snead Hall through Wednesday, Oct. 19. Once dismantled, the clothes will be donated to Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, the release reads.

Jackson Ward's Walker became the first black female bank president in the United States in the early 1900s. Scalin has received national media attention for this same kind of project before (see video below).

More from the release:

“As a successful businesswoman of color, Maggie Walker represents the diverse students who are currently enrolled at the School of Business,” Scalin said. “As the first woman to charter a bank in America, she was a true pioneer in her time and the embodiment of the values the school wants to instill in its students. She was also a resident of the neighborhood that abuts VCU, so recognizing her importance helps the school show that it is thoughtfully connected to its community.”

The installation is just one component of Scalin’s residency at the school during the 2016–17 academic year. Charged with helping the school institute its new strategic plan, which aims to drive the future of business through the power of creativity, Scalin will conduct several creative-thinking seminars and guest lectures. The university community is already taking part in a 30-day Creative Sprint challenge that Scalin issued Oct. 1.

“It’s wonderful that the School of Business recognizes the transformative power of art,” Scalin said. “The opportunity for connection, collaboration and dialogue allows the students to have a more in-depth learning experience, which will not only enhance their classroom experiences, but their lives beyond the school’s walls as well.”

Scalin founded and co-runs the art and innovation consulting firm Another Limited Rebellion, which works with clients such as GE, Altria, Capital One, Gap, Intuit and Mozilla. He is creator of the Webby Award-winning Skull-A-Day project and the author of five books on art, design and creativity. His art has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, including the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago and Krause Gallery in New York. He has been featured in dozens of publications, including Fast Company, Business Destinations, Wired, USA Today, The Telegraph and The New York Times.

Anamorphic Portrait @ VMFA by Noah Scalin from Noah Scalin on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


New York transplant Alexander Sapp is wowing local audiences.

Posted By on Sun, Oct 9, 2016 at 10:00 PM

Alexander Sapp (Edward Rutledge) and cast in "1776, The Musical." - AARON SUTTEN
  • Aaron Sutten
  • Alexander Sapp (Edward Rutledge) and cast in "1776, The Musical."

For local theatergoers, Alexander Sapp’s arrival in Richmond was like manna from the theater-making gods.

Starting with his first role as the comically furious Irish brother, Ray, in Henley Street Theatre’s 2013 production of “Beauty Queen of Leenane,” Sapp has been electrifying local stages with one great performance after another. His role in Virginia Rep’s “Mame” in 2014 revealed that he also had a great voice. Sapp brings those pipes to bear in the show-stopping second act song “Molasses to Rum” in Virginia Rep’s current blockbuster, “1776,” playing the pro-slavery South Carolinian, Edward Rutledge.

Fans have started asking him a question often leveled at talented local actors. “A few times people have come up and said, ‘You were great in that show; when are you leaving?’” says Sapp. What most folks don’t know is that Sapp has already made his run at fame in New York and doesn’t expect to go back anytime soon.

“I loved living up there, I had a great time,” he recalls. Sapp moved to New York after graduating with a degree in musical theater from Shenandoah University. “I lived there for 5 years but I never auditioned for anything. I used to beat myself up about that until eventually I thought, ‘maybe you just don’t want to do it.’ After that, the pressure was lifted off my shoulders.”

He returned to his hometown in Maryland before friends in Richmond suggested he should try his luck down here. “Science is my second passion so I thought I could go to school at VCU, maybe study ecology or aeronautical engineering,” Sapp says. “I tried to find a regular job but no one would hire me. I saw an audition notice for ‘Beauty Queen.’ Martin McDonagh is one of my favorite playwrights so I tried out. I got the part and, before the show opened, I had booked two more roles.”

Beyond finding work, Sapp also found he loved Richmond. “Leaving New York was like getting out of a serious relationship,” he says. “I was thinking all of those same things: no, it’s not you, it’s me; maybe we can just be friends, et cetera. Then it was like my friends introduced me to this lovely new lady; I really fell for this city.”

“I understand wanting to go to a bigger market, the idea of ‘making it,’” Sapp says. “But for a creative person, the most important thing is to be doing it, working at the craft. It’s kind of crazy how much theater is going on here. If I keep working, I can keep getting better and better.”

As Rutledge, Sapp has to spout very racist dialogue. “Some of the lines I have to say make Alexander the actor cringe,” he says. “But being racist isn’t a playable action. Rutledge wants what he thinks is good for South Carolina and he does everything he can to get it.”

His character is also a bit of a dandy and Sapp says in conversations with director Debra Clinton, they used animal metaphors a lot. “Rutledge is like a beautiful, deadly predator, a hawk or a panther or a spider. There’s an elegance to him, but when he strikes, he’s quite ruthless and violent.”

“1776” runs through Oct. 23.

Running: There are still two more weekends to see Firehouse’s “Ubu 84” and Swift Creek Mill’s “Almost, Maine,” both closing the same weekend as “1776.”

On Deck: CAT (also known as Chamberlayne Actors Theatre) kicks of its season with the classic thriller “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight,” opening Oct. 14.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What to Know About the Month-Long Carnival of 5 Fires

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 2:45 PM

Parker Galore is pictured second from the left in this group of Gallery 5 notables.
  • Parker Galore is pictured second from the left in this group of Gallery 5 notables.

If, as Socrates said, the secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new, then the Carnival of 5 Fires is positively Socratic.

When the event began in 2006, Richmond wasn’t a place where people routinely danced with fire or artists painted a live model’s body for an audience. The growth of the scene owes a debt to the Circus’ boundary-challenging programming. But it’s also a sampler for those who’ve yet to experience the variety of talent that bubbles just under the city’s surface.

For a decade, the Carnival has snowballed to where the month-long event represents a "what's happening" inventory of various Richmond subcultures – art, fire performance, music, film, burlesque, original theater, belly dancing, circus arts, light projections and DJ dance parties. “It’s a holiday tradition for Richmond to come together and celebrate different circles of creativity under one umbrella,” says ringmaster and long-time organizer Parker Galore.

This year, much of it is keyed to borrowed native son Edgar Allan Poe because the festivities kick off Oct. 7, the 167th anniversary of his death, before barreling through October and ending with the puppet-led annual Halloween parade to the Oregon Hill overlook. *All events are held at Gallery5 unless otherwise noted.

Film fans

Silent Music Revival screening of "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Fall of the House of Usher" with improvised live musical soundtrack by Dave Watkins. Oct. 7, 8 p.m.

Troma film series screening of “Hectic Knife” featuring a knife-wielding vigilante trying to save the world from an evil, naked villain. Star, producer and co-creator Peter Litvin and director Greg Deliso will provide commentary and answer questions. Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Silent Music Revival 10th anniversary screening of Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent classic “Vampyr,” with improvised musical accompaniment by Navi. Oct. 30, 8 p.m.

Troma film series double feature of “The Thingy” and “Fear Town, USA” about four boys looking to lose their virginity, a girl haunted by a dark secret, a lonely teenager, and an escaped mental patient meeting at a party in the woods. Bad idea. Oct. 31, 7:30.

Art appreciators

First Friday Kickoff at Gallery5 with group show of over 20 local and visiting artists, including Jill-of-all-trades Molly Chopin, who will be painting a live model until about 8 p.m. when the model becomes a living sculpture in the art show while Chopin does face-painting. “I’m stoked to pull artists from other places to weave in with our locals,” Galore says.

Upstairs, an exhibition by local taxidermy and curiosity purveyors, Rest in Pieces. Oct. 7, 7 p.m.

Live performances

Variety show hosted by local favorite, Deanna Danger, as Poe and featuring an ensemble of six performing burlesque, sideshow and circus arts. October 7, 9 p.m.

Local band Dharma Bombs opening for Lightfoot Revival on the inside stage. Oct. 7, 10 p.m.

Party Liberation Front presents Pyro Circus Street Show featuring fire performance, circus arts and bellydance set to DJs spinning music. Oct. 7, 8 p.m. Brook Road at Marshall Street.

“Earth Dreams,” a collaborative ritual performance celebrating the planet through music, movement and poetry featuring music by Lobo Marino and Aha Moment, Bharathanatyam Indian classical dance, Laterna Dance Company and puppet performances by All the Saints Theater Company. Oct. 9, 7 p.m.

“The Haunting of Poe” presented by Deanna Danger Productions and Gilded Lily Burlesque. Oct. 21-22, 9 p.m.

Richmond Burlesque Revue presents the “Creepshow Peepshow.” Oct. 29, 9 p.m.

Interactive interests

Tarot card readings by Lauren Onca O’Leary of World Spirit Tarot. Oct. 7, 7 p.m.

Official Carnival afterparty with Music Box: Sugar and Spice Edition with DC’s DJ Throdown, NY’s Beat Kitty and Richmond’s own Sultans. Oct. 7, 10:30 p.m. at Strange Matter, 929 W. Grace St.

11th Annual Richmond Halloween parade presented by All the Saints Theatre Company kicks off in Monroe Park and parades through Oregon Hill. All are welcome to march and costumes are encouraged. Oct. 31, 7 p.m. sharp, Monroe Park.

*All events at Gallery5 unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Interview: Atlanta Playwright Topher Payne talks about the roots of LGBT-themed "Perfect Arrangement."

Posted By on Sun, Oct 2, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Atlanta playwright Topher Payne wrote "Perfect Arrangement" now at Richmond Triangle Players.
  • Atlanta playwright Topher Payne wrote "Perfect Arrangement" now at Richmond Triangle Players.

At one point while interviewing playwright Topher Payne, I have to stop and make sure I’ve heard him correctly. Did he just suggest that theater critics had benefited his career somehow?

“The American Theatre Critics Association awarded the DC production of ‘Perfect Arrangement’ with the Osborn Award for best new play by an emerging playwright [in 2014.] After the critics gave me that award, the play got a lot more attention,” Payne explains, adding with a laugh: “It was payback for years of horrible things we’ve said about each other.”

Within a year, a production of “Arrangement” was mounted off-Broadway and, after a series of regional premieres from Louisville to Anchorage, the show opened this weekend at Richmond Triangle Players. Another of his plays, “Angry Fags,” got a high-profile premiere in 2015 at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. After more than a decade toiling away in Atlanta, building a reputation as one of that city’s finest writers, he was suddenly an overnight success.

Payne’s ticket to greater visibility had a humble beginning.

“Years ago I was working at a book store called ‘Outwrite,’ which was the gathering place for the LGBT community in Atlanta,” he recalls. “I came across a book called ‘The Lavender Scare’ by David K. Johnson.” Johnson’s book details the persecution of gays during the McCarthy era in the 1950s when some government officials considered homosexuals as dangerous a threat to national security as Communists.

“I got so furious,” says Payne. “Why did I not know this happened? [That frustration] became a little bug in my ear and something I felt a desperate need to communicate.”

As mad as he was, Payne took that inspiration and crafted a somewhat zany comedy out of it, with a gay couple and a lesbian couple conspiring to hide their relationships by pretending to be two hetero couples. “I write unexpected comedies,” Payne explains. “I think if you get audiences laughing, then you get them listening.”

The show exposes the pernicious institutional persecution of homosexuals but also has a message for today’s LGBTQ community.

“During that time, the gay and lesbian communities really needed each other. They went to clubs together so that, in case there was a raid, they could pair off very quickly and pass for straight,” he says. “Now that we have more freedom to express our authentic selves, we sometimes seek out people most like us and that can be to our detriment. We lose the big picture if we’re all just looking out for ourselves.”

Payne has recently started writing for television, penning the script for a TV movie called “My Summer Prince,” produced by the Hallmark Channel. “It’s a sweet little romantic comedy,” he says. “My mother has never been more proud of anything I’ve ever done.”

He still appreciates the freedom of writing for the stage, though. “Live theater is one of the few quiet spaces we have left, where people will actually shut up and listen,” Payne says. “There is a tremendous responsibility in that. For a playwright I feel like, if people are going to give you two hours of their time, please say something.”

“Perfect Arrangement” runs at Richmond Triangle Players through Oct. 22.

Running:The theater season has reached its autumn apex with six products on the boards. Quill’s “Dracula” and 5th Wall’s “Rapture, Blister, Burn” close this coming weekend. Firehouse’s “Ubu 84” and Swift Creek Mill’s “Almost, Maine” continue through Oct. 22. This weekend’s other big opening, Virginia Rep’s “1776” celebrates America until Oct. 23.

On Deck: Virginia Rep’s kid show, “June B. Jones: The Musical” premieres on Friday.

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