Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Perfect Hipster Stocking Stuffer Has Arrived

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 1:45 PM

Cara Cline's Boy Gangs of Richmond patches.
  • Cara Cline's Boy Gangs of Richmond patches.

Yeah, we know. The word "hipster" has lost all meaning, but that doesn't mean they're not still out there.

If you ever read Charles Wallace’s out-of-print "The Boy Gangs of Richmond in the Dear Old Days: A Page of the City’s Lesser History" or Harry Ward's more recent, “Children of the Streets of Richmond, 1865-1920,” you know that RVA's former ruffian street kids had some awesome, sometimes ridiculous-sounding gang names.

H/t to Church HIll People's News: Now your street-fashion-coordinated, patch-wearing friend will be in cred heaven, because Clara Cline at The Wild Wander Co. has some sweet Boy Gangs of Richmond patches available.

They'll be on sale this weekend at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery for Richmond Craft Mafia's Handmade Holiday. It's a two-day event running noon-7 on Saturday, Dec. 3, and noon-5 on Sunday, Dec. 4.

The patches are all hand-lettered and will sell for $7 each, or $50 for the complete set of nine, Cline tells Style. Each comes on a card with a history of the gang on the back.

She explains that she was initially hooked on the boy gangs after reading a blog post years ago about Wallace's book. She hunted down a paperback copy of the 1938 book at Black Swan ("they're hard to find in decent condition," she says).

"I've always loved history, especially of the ephemera sort, so I was really taken by the whole idea of newsies-style shenanigans happening across Richmond," she says. "The gang names were begging for vintage baseball team style mascots, so I started sketching them just for fun. They've sat in a file for probably five years now, but for whatever reason I pulled them out a few months ago and realized they'd make great patches."

Cline says her favorite story in the book was about the Pollywog Gang. "Most of the gangs were older boys, maybe nine to 15 years old, but the Pollywogs were made up of essentially toddlers, four to 5-year-olds. In spite of their size, they took no guff and were known for being absolute little hellions, and carried a banner wherever they went that said "POLLYWOG GANG - DEATH TO THE ENEMY" flanked by tiny trumpeters. I got my eight-month-old a denim jacket and Pollywog patch so she can carry the banner of rowdy Richmond babies."

Old-school Richmond street kids probably were a tad tougher than today's weak-wristed, Pikachu hunters. We're guessing there.

You can read our feature excerpt from Ward's book here.

Guitarist Keller Williams Scores Sweet Gold Jacket from Richmond Fan

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 11:15 AM

Keller Williams and his guitar make a dash for it. - C. TAYLOR CROTHERS
  • C. Taylor Crothers
  • Keller Williams and his guitar make a dash for it.

Keller Williams' "Thanksforgrassgiving" turned out a crowd Saturday at The National and a new wardrobe item for the artist.

Nathaniel Hessberg attended the show in what his friend describes as "the prettiest garment in his closet," a gold, sparkling blazer from another decade.

Early in the evening, Hessberg threw the jacket onstage, where Keller put it on and wore it for the show's duration but forgot to return it afterward, prompting a Facebook post from the artist:

"I'd like to apologize for not taking a picture with the super energetic yet kind eyed gentleman in the front row who threw this gold mirrored jacket at me at last night. When the show was over, I was whooped. The decompression had begun and I didn't want to move. It was made clear to me that the dude was very disappointed which [led] to a nagging reappearance of guilt in my mind during my day today. I just wanted to say to the dude personally whoever and wherever you are, thank you for this rad jacket. Kw"

"There was no doobie in the pocket," Hessberg says. "But in the spirit of being thankful, it just made sense to offer up the jacket. The rest is history."


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Richmond International Raceway and AEG Live Announce Partnership for Classic Amphitheater

Twenty-fifth anniversary season of concerts to begin announcing soon.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 1:00 AM

Darius Rucker performs at the Classic Amphitheater.
  • Darius Rucker performs at the Classic Amphitheater.

A major global concert promoter, AEG Live, and Richmond International Raceway have entered into an exclusive booking agreement for Richmond's 6,000-seat outdoor venue, the Classic Amphitheater.

The announcement comes just in time for that venue's 25th anniversary in 2017.

"This is a fixed location, a boutique venue similar in size to the Wolf Trap or the Mann Center in Philadelphia," says Bill Reid, former part-owner of the National and the Norva who had sold both to AEG Live in 2014. He is now a senior vice president with AEG Live Mid-Atlantic. "RIR had an asset there that was sitting around. When we got with them, we noted we could help bring talent in, and they run it and do races twice a year. Nobody has to start from scratch. They’re just running their building."

Reid notes that while many people might associate country acts with Nascar races, the schedule of artists will draw from a wide variety of genres. He adds that the venue has ample parking, far more than needed, and they will be looking to bring in Richmond food vendors and food trucks. They will not be selling the lawn seats per se, but leaving that space open for ticketed audience members to enjoy, he says

"Our partnership with AEG Live will continue to build the history of the Classic Amphitheater to new generations of fans," said RIR President Dennis Bickmeier in a news release cleverly delivered with a portable record player and a crate of albums featuring artists who had played the venue. "With the 25th anniversary of the Classic Amphitheater, we will celebrate the past, present and future of one of the best concert experiences in the region."

In the past, the Classic Amphitheater has played host to national acts including Aerosmith, the Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan, Phish, Gucci Mane, Van Halen and the Lumineers (whom Reid calls a prime example of the kind of act the venue will book moving forward).

Known as the Classic Amphitheater at Strawberry Hill back in the 1990s, it lost business when larger, 20,000-seat outdoor amphitheaters in Virginia Beach and Manassas began to lure away A-list talent.

But the Classic Amphitheater has been booking occasional shows again since 2013. The facility now looks a little different, trees and landscape have matured and the hill has been reduced some.

AEG Live operates in North America, Europe and Asia, producing more than 25 festivals. It owns, manages or books more than 60 clubs and theaters. It presents more than 8,000 shows annually worldwide.

An announcement regarding some future artists for the 2017 anniversary season should arrive soon.

"As we start rolling out, its not the kind of thing where we’ll announce a summer series," Reid explains. "The key factor is flexibility – when you book, how you book, and the circumstances on which you book things. For us, that’s always been the name of game."

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Multi-talented Nicole Oberleitner picks a heck of a show to choreograph with "A Christmas Story."

Posted By on Sun, Nov 27, 2016 at 6:20 PM

Multi-talented Nicole Oberleitner, a singer, actress and choreographer, moved to Richmond after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.
  • Multi-talented Nicole Oberleitner, a singer, actress and choreographer, moved to Richmond after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.

If you saw Kate McKinnon’s killer cold open on "Saturday Night Live" a couple of weeks back -- and if you didn’t, you should check it out immediately -- you might have marveled, “Not only is she a hilarious comic actor, but she can sing and play piano too?” If you followed that up with some Google research, you’d find she also plays guitar and cello.

That’s the kind of surprising surplus of talent you see in Nicole Oberleitner. The striking brunette first caught my eye in her hilarious turn as the title character in Swift Creek Mill’s 2013 hit, "The Drowsy Chaperone." Boozy and ribald, her comic chops were supplemented by a knockout voice. The role earned her a Richmond Theatre Critics Circle award nomination, one of five she’s racked up since her local pro theater debut in Virginia Rep’s 2011 musical, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

One of those nominations was as a choreographer, which turns out to be her primary interest and the role she’s filling for the first time at Virginia Rep for its production, "A Christmas Story: The Broadway Musical."

“I’ve wanted to choreograph something at Virginia Rep for years,” Oberleitner says. “But every time I’ve discussed it with [director] Chase Kniffen, he says, ‘I’m sure you’d be great but there’s a part in the show that you’d be perfect for.’ I’ve always trusted his judgment so I haven’t been disappointed but I am glad to finally get this chance.”

Oberleitner has picked a heck of a show to choreograph: the musical version of the Christmas classic has a cast of 31 actors, with a wide range of ages and abilities. She has a no-nonsense attitude about getting her job done. “With that many people, you just plow forward,” she says. “I’m very focused; I don’t want to be wasting their time.”

The mother of two landed in Richmond after years working as a dancer and choreographer on numerous cruise ships, a stint on Broadway in the cast of "Urban Cowboy: The Musical," and months traveling with the USO World Tour. Born in New Orleans, she was packed and ready to head back there when Hurricane Katrina hit, scuttling her plans.

Happily settled here now, she is only one of many Broadway caliber professionals associated with the show, included lead actors Duke Lafoon and Andrea Rivette. While not dancers by trade, both have numerous NYC credits and Oberleitner says they make it work. “Duke is not scared of anything,” she says. “And Andrea naturally moves like a dancer.”

It’s a good thing because Oberleitner makes few concessions to those with less dancing experience. “I’m not a fan of dumbing the steps down,” she says. “I make it clear what we’re working toward and, during auditions, I only pick people I know can get there.”

By The Way: Oberleitner may not be on stage in "A Christmas Story," but there are plenty of other opportunities to see her perform. Not only is she is the lead singer of MoneyPenny, a pop rock cover band, but she’s also the founder, producer and director of The Bellini Sisters, a 1940s singing trio that does shows for veterans groups and appearances at special occasions like Flying Squirrels baseball games. She has a day job in the healthcare field, teaches dance at The Dance Space studio, and presumably does not sleep.

Running: Oy, the Christmas shows! Triangle Players’ "Scrooge in Rouge" runs through Dec. 17, "A Christmas Story" until New Year’s Day and "A Tuna Christmas" at Swift Creek Mill doesn’t wrap until Jan. 7.

On Deck: Add "The Charitable Sisterhood Christmas Spectacular" to the list, opening Dec. 2.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Pick: My Darling Fury (FeedMore Benefit) at Broadberry

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 12:45 PM


Sharing is the flip side of feasting, and if you can dance to it, so much the better. The overstuffed charitable choice for this long weekend is Saturday night’s all-star FeedMore benefit at the Broadberry. Social consciousness is an integral part of the mix with organizer/headliner, My Darling Fury, a three piece band with an artfully-crafted orchestral sound and the powerhouse vocals of Danny Reyes.

Also on the bill, the poetic EDM-tinged Anousheh, Brooklyn-based electronic music explorer Nerve Leak, singer/songwriter Sean Barna, and soulful loop music architect Kenneka Cook. All in all, a great way to leave the leftovers behind and shake off the tryptophan sluggishness with a full night of feeling good while doing good.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Meet This Year's New Group Slide Fetish

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 3:20 PM

Richmond International Raceway is about to have a bad trip.
  • Richmond International Raceway is about to have a bad trip.

Remember when everybody got all jacked up and forked over their hard-earned dollars for a flappy water slide that ran through downtown Richmond? I never heard much about how that turned out.

Anyway, this year, that same kiddie-flavored love is bubbling around a recently announced Blacklight slide event at Richmond International Raceway scheduled for Saturday, June 3 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. (They call it a "night event," but not sure organizers understand that it will still be light outside during that summer time window.)

So just what is a blacklight slide party, you ask? Pretty sure you guessed already.

The FB page calls it a "unique night experience focused on UV Neon Glowing fun [sic]." Yes, there will be "dark water" (gross) running through the slide again, but this time you'll be glowing. According to organizers, the event will feature one of the "top DJs in the country" and before its over, you and your white swimsuit will "look like you fell into a 'Ghostbusters' movie." Like, omg. Selfie-heaven!

Just make sure your "dark water" slide doesn't commingle with any vomit puddles of Cheetos and Wild Irish Rose left by a guy named Earle during a Nascar event. Or just screw it: It's not like you'll be able to tell the difference between the "dark water" or an oil slick . . . or Earle's amazing, technicolored hurl.

Here's some video of this chain event from a previous happening in Austin, Texas. Hear that scene-marketers? Cover yourself in neon paint and maybe -- just maybe -- Richmond will be the next Austin.

This is NOT an officially sanctioned acid test, people. Lube yourself with fun. Be somebody, Richmond.

Tickets for our very own RVA blacklight slide event are $20 now (early bird special) but the price for FUN goes up to $50 on Nov. 23. You can give your money away here.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


"Scrooge in Rouge" actor Kirk Morton talks about RTP's take on classic Dickens.

Posted By on Sun, Nov 20, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Richmond Triangle Players ushers in the holiday season with a wacky take on the Dickens story. Runs through Dec. 17.
  • Richmond Triangle Players ushers in the holiday season with a wacky take on the Dickens story. Runs through Dec. 17.

The cliché is that most actors have day jobs as waiters or hostesses. While there are certainly thespians working in restaurants in Richmond, there are also plenty of local stage pros who spend the traditional workweek as lawyers, therapists, small business owners, IT managers and teachers.

With some of these professions, there is more direct synergy with an acting career. For instance, Kirk Morton has had a long and successful theater career here, starring in his first professional show at Swift Creek Mill when he was 15, slating more than two dozen roles since, and currently reprising his star turn in “Scrooge in Rouge” at Richmond Triangle Players, a revival of the hit 2009 production.

Morton has also worked in public mental health for more than 30 years and says that his two professions positively influence each other. “In my day job I’ve seen some pretty intense stuff where sometimes it can be useful to try to make heavy situations lighter,” he says. “I can use the same anxiety that I feel as an actor going out on stage to draw energy from to make things better.”

On the flip side, some of the interesting people he’s become familiar with can inform his acting. “I’ve worked with people at the far, far end of the spectrum,” he says. “It can definitely give me material to draw from when I’m called to be over the top.”

Appearing with Morton in “Rouge” are his original castmates, Steve Boschen and Lauren Leinhaas-Cook. The madcap show has the three actors going through 30-something costume changes as part of recreating “A Christmas Carol” when the rest of their vaudeville production cast falls ill from food poisoning. Morton says coming back to the show has been a real treat. “You know when you go to see that one favorite aunt you only see once a year and she feeds you that one great dish only she cooks?” he asks. “It’s kind of like that because we’re all saying, ‘We forgot how good this is!’“

The cast reviewed videotape of the 2009 production, which was instructive. “We were reminded that certain bits were pretty darn funny,” he recalls. “But there were also several times where I could see that I missed an opportunity. So we’re keeping what we think worked but also bringing new things to it.”

Morton reminds me that the original show was staged during the time Triangle Players was in-between its old home at Fielden’s Nightclub and its current Altamont Avenue home. “We did that show in bingo halls and bars all over town,” he laughs. “So it’s been great to revisit it just from a style perspective. With a permanent space, we can really get the look and feel we envisioned the first time.”

“It’s really an infectious little show,” Morton continues. “We’ve all been through some difficult stuff lately and this could be just the right soothing tonic for the holidays.”

“Scrooge in Rouge” will run through Dec. 17. Running: At the Firehouse, Quill’s “Assassins” keeps a-singing and a-shooting until Nov. 26 while “A Tuna Christmas” will be celebrating at Swift Creek Mill until Jan. 7.

On Deck: Virginia Rep offers a musical version of the movie classic, “A Christmas Story,” opening Nov. 25.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Colson Whitehead to Deliver VCU Libraries Black History Month Lecture

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 12:20 PM

Author Colson Whitehead will be appearing at VCU in February for black history month.
  • Author Colson Whitehead will be appearing at VCU in February for black history month.

One of the most talented authors in the country, Colson Whitehead, will visit VCU in February to deliver the 15th annual VCU Libraries black history month lecture.

Whitehead won the National Book Award this year for his New York Times best-selling book, "The Underground Railroad," which reimagines two slaves escaping from Georgia via an actual underground railroad.

The author will speak from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, at the James Branch Cabell Library Lecture Hall, room 303. His free talk will be followed by a book sale and signing as well as a public reception, according to a press release from the school.

Whitehead formerly was an artist-in-residence at the University of Richmond.

More from the VCU press release:

“The Underground Railroad,” tells the story of Cora and Caesar, two slaves who seek freedom from their Georgia plantations by following the Underground Railroad, which Colson re-imagines as an actual railroad built underground. The novel won praise from Oprah Winfrey, who called it “one of the most grim, gripping, powerful novels about slavery I have ever experienced,” as well as from President Barack Obama.

In the New York Times’ review of the novel, Michiko Kakutani called it “a potent, almost hallucinatory novel that leaves the reader with a devastating understanding of the terrible human costs of slavery. It possesses the chilling, matter-of-fact power of the slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, with echoes of Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved,’ Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Misérables’ and Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man,’ and with brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift.”

Whitehead's reviews, essays and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, including the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's and Granta.

He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

He has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a writer-in-residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond and the University of Wyoming.

Whitehead’s lecture at VCU will be free and open to the public. It will be part of a month filled with educational and thought-provoking events celebrating black excellence. The full list of events will be announced in January.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

VCU Launches Public Art Project for Unification

Big ball of yarn hopes to show how we're all connected.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 11:10 AM

VCU students will attempt to show their interconnected bonds with yarn near the James Branch Cabell Library.
  • VCU students will attempt to show their interconnected bonds with yarn near the James Branch Cabell Library.

All around RVA, college students are reacting in various ways to the election of Donald Trump. We all know about the angry protests erupting around the country (12 young people were arrested here in Richmond near VCU).

But have you heard about the yarn project?

Today, Virginia Commonwealth University's Division for Inclusive Excellence, Department of Psychology and Parternship for People with Disabilities at the School of Education are partnering to launch a public interactive art project called UNITY.

The project will feature a circular arrangement of 32 poles in a large field with each pole labeled as an identifier (for example, "I speak English as a second language" or "I identify as LGBTQ"). Participants in the project use yarn to tie to whatever pole they identify. Organizers hope that in the end, a "canopy of interconnectedness" will form as more people get involved.

Here's a video of an impressive Yarn Barn being raised in Alexandria. (Try not to get tangled, people, and be careful with those scissors.)

The project is open to the public and you can find it in the open grassy area in front of the James Branch Cabell Library, 901 Park Ave. It will be up starting today through Sunday, Nov. 20.

Across town at the University of Richmond, students are putting their own spin on the election by protest marching for things they like, as reported out by the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Ah, to be young again.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


Though Heritage is relatively new in town, it is finding its audience.

Posted By on Sun, Nov 13, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Shalandis Wheeler Smith and Rakeem Laws.
  • Shalandis Wheeler Smith and Rakeem Laws.

For almost every dynamic leader who acts as the public face of a local theater company, there is a dedicated behind-the-scenes worker diligently filling in the gaps and helping to keep the ship afloat.

Firehouse’s Joel Bassin has Associate Producer Adam Ferguson. Richmond Triangle Players recently added Lucian Restivo to the staff to act as Phil Crosby’s associate producing director. And Heritage Ensemble Theatre’s Margarette Joyner depends on Shalandis Wheeler Smith as her administrative director.

Because of that job, Smith has two roles in “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” that Heritage just opened at the Pine Camp Arts and Community Center this weekend. Onstage she plays Adele, the hard-working breadwinner in a family of freeloaders, and behind-the-scenes she helped engineer the agreement with Pine Camp that has the company producing its current season there after its agreement with Virginia Union University expired.

“We had been talking to Pine Camp about producing a show there last season but the timing didn’t work out,” says Smith. “It’s every company’s dream to have its own home, of course, but for now they’ve been very supportive of us coming in.” Next February Heritage will produce a new original work written by Joyner, “Message from a Slave,” at the northside arts center.

Smith has a bit of history at Pine Camp: her first appearance in a local pro production was with Henley Street Theatre (one of the precursors to Quill) in their staging of “Much Ado About Nothing” back in 2008. Though she grew up in Petersburg, Smith took a couple of detours before landing back in the area. After graduating from Norfolk State University, she took a job with a tech company in Maryland, before a rekindled romance with her high school senior prom date, now her husband, lured her back.

In addition to quickly scoring roles in productions by Henley Street and the now-defunct Petersburg company, Sycamore Rouge, when she returned Smith founded the Creative Souls Acting Troupe that produced staged readings and pop-up productions. That troupe got her talking to Joyner and a new working partnership was born.

Smith says she’s most excited about producing “Ceremonies” because it will be many people’s first exposure to playwright Lonne Elder III. “Everyone knows about writers like August Wilson, but we’re looking to get the names of other African American writers out there,” she says. “Ceremonies” was a runner-up for the 1969 Pulitzer Prize and Elder went on to write movie screenplays like “Sounder.”

Though Heritage is relatively new in town, it is finding its audience thanks to the persistent work of Joyner and Smith. “We’ll also be collaborating with Richmond Triangle Players on a show called ‘Choir Boy’ next year,” says Smith. “We’re an eager young company and always looking to form new partnerships.”

Folks will need to move fast to see “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men:” it only runs through next weekend, closing Nov. 19.

By the Way: Also opening this weekend was “A Tuna Christmas” at Swift Creek Mill, the first of two holiday revivals this season. Richmond faves Richard Koch and John Hagadorn each play more than a dozen roles in the show as they did in the 2008 production. The other revival, “Scrooge in Rouge,” previews on the Richmond Triangle Players stage starting Nov. 16, bringing back the popular 2009 take-off on “A Christmas Carol.”

Running: Quill’s “Assassins” will keep killing it at the Firehouse through Nov. 26.

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