Wednesday, December 21, 2016

VCU Professor Becomes Underwriting Voice of NPR

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 10:58 AM

Virginia Commonwealth University instructor Chioke I'Anson is teaching a special course at VCU next semester called "Podcasting While Black." - VCU UNIVERSITY PUBLIC AFFAIRS
  • VCU University Public Affairs
  • Virginia Commonwealth University instructor Chioke I'Anson is teaching a special course at VCU next semester called "Podcasting While Black."

If you're a fan of National Public Radio, you know that underwriting voice: Smooth, calm, reassuring, female. And usually saying "Support for NPR comes from . . ."

Well, there's a new voice in town. As of Nov. 28, a deep, male baritone voice is being featured as one of NPR's underwriting talents. It belongs to a local instructor in the Department of African-American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU, Chioke I'Anson.

According to the University Public Affairs Office, I'Anson has joined Jessica Hansen as one of NPR's two underwriting voices, after attending a storytelling workshop at NPR in June to pitch his forthcoming podcast “Do Over,” which is based around the idea of traveling back to any point in time. The press release notes the idea "was one of only three shows in the country to win funding from the NPR Story Lab, NPR’s idea hub that creates pilots for radio programs, launches new podcasts and introduces new voices to the public radio network."

Here's more from Brian McNeil with University Public Affairs:.

After I’Anson and his team gave a presentation at the workshop, Israel Smith, NPR’s director of promotion and audience development, approached I’Anson and told him that he liked the way he sounded and that they should keep in touch.

“A short time after that he had me audition and then shopped the tape around to the relevant decision-makers,” I’Anson said. “He told me the news in a morning phone call and I immediately went into a state of delirium.”

“I recorded a bank of underwriting credits in November, which began to play the week after Thanksgiving after the hourly newscast,” he added. “I get texts from friends every time they hear me telling listeners about PajamaGram.”

In addition to his work for NPR and the “Do Over” podcast, I’Anson served as community producer for the Richmond-based public radio project “UnMonumental” which launched in 2016 with VCU alumna Kelley Libby.

In the spring, I’Anson will teach a special African-American studies course on podcasting called “Podcasting While Black,” which will use the rhetorical strategies of figures such as Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglas and Audre Lorde as starting points to develop students’ broadcast “voices” that they will use in a podcast pilot they will develop over the course of the semester.

His university webpage gives a little more insight:

"Chioke is interested primarily in global humanitarianism and development. His dissertation is focused on the humanitarian ideologies that westerners often carry into the global south. Several philosophical perspectives are utilized in his research, including those from Black existentialism, African philosophy, and German idealism. Chioke is also interested in feminism and motorcycle studies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Last Minute Gift for the Jamband Fan: Lockn Tix

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 9:45 AM

Margot Price is one of the up-and-coming artists that will be featured at Lockn next summer.
  • Margot Price is one of the up-and-coming artists that will be featured at Lockn next summer.

It's nearly Christmas and you've neglected to spend hours shopping for those music lovers in your life.

Fear not - Lockn festival ticket receipts print from home:

Earlier this month, organizers Peter Shapiro and Dave Frey announced 2017 returning acts like Widespread Panic and Gov't Mule, along with festival newcomers The Avett Brothers, Brandie Carlile (slated to play last year but did not perform), and a long list of festival favorites.

Lockn 2017 is set to deliver predictably jam band-focused acts and a true-to-its-origins lineup. The four-day event will take place between Aug. 24-27 at Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, Virginia.

Most notable is Phil Lesh, who along with Keller Williams has played the festival every year since it began, and will be performing a 40th anniversary set of "Terrapin Station" with The Terrapin Family Band.

Four day passes range from early bird general admission ($259), to VIP ($849), and a wide array of lodging and camping options on-site and at the nearby Wintergreen Resort. In past years, single-day and two-day passes have been offered a couple months before the event, but there's no guarantee these will be available in Lockn's fifth trip to Oak Ridge.

Toss these tickets in any stocking and watch the faces of your friends and family light up with the happiness found in summertime mountain air.

Full lineup (in order of announcement):

The Avett Brothers

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

Brandi Carlile

Keller Williams

Gov’t Mule


JJ Grey & Mofro

Eric Krasno Band

John Butler Trio

Margo Price


Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

Marcus King Band

Los Colognes

The Suffers

Umphrey’s McGee

Greensky Bluegrass

The String Cheese Incident

Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel

Widespread Panic

Phil Lesh & Friends

Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band

The Revivalists

Sunday, December 18, 2016


There's a renewed sense of urgency in the local theater world.

Posted By on Sun, Dec 18, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Richmond Triangle Players offers a New Year's Eve opportunity with a Broadway star, when it presents “An Intimate Evening with Emily Skinner” on Dec. 31.
  • Richmond Triangle Players offers a New Year's Eve opportunity with a Broadway star, when it presents “An Intimate Evening with Emily Skinner” on Dec. 31.

As 2016 rambles to its cacophonous close, there is a renewed sense of urgency in the performing arts world. Sure, the masses are enjoying the familiar, calming charms of Richmond Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” or the amusing distractions of Virginia Rep’s “A Christmas Story” or “The Charitable Sisterhood Christmas Spectacular.”

But as the staging of “After Orlando” at Richmond Triangle Players last week indicates, local directors and playwrights are looking for ways to capture the current zeitgeist and dramatize it onstage with an immediacy unique to theater. The RTP event was the local realization of an international action that hopes to continue the conversations around LGBT rights and domestic terrorism that were started after the horrible shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub back in June.

One of the organizers of the international effort, Caridad Svich, said that she feels compelled to be “[m]aking some healing art, some fiery art, some work that says we can rise up from and through collective mourning.”

As the dustup around the cast of “Hamilton” directly addressing Vice President-Elect Mike Pence several weeks ago indicates, theater has the freedom and flexibility to respond to and interact with the world like no other art form. In my conversations with local theater pros, they would like to seize this moment to raise live theater to a renewed level of relevance by increasing awareness and inspiring change. One way stage productions can do this is through giving voice to individuals who feel marginalized, oppressed or simply misunderstood. Firehouse Theatre is starting off next year with one such performance, staging “I love you in spite of” on Sunday, Jan. 9. Performer/playwright Em Allison will relate the challenges of her teen and pre-teen years, many stemming from dealing with her critically ill mother.

Expect more similarly intense, enlightening and empowering productions in 2017.

In the meantime, the end of the year presents two wildly different opportunities to celebrate the holidays. Tonight at 8 p.m., the Firehouse offers “A Stripmas Carol: A Burlesque Retelling of ‘A Christmas Carol’.” Burlesque productions have increased in popularity in Richmond over the past couple of years and this show hopes to melt away any lingering Christmas chill.

If you’ve ever wanted to spend New Year’s Eve with a Broadway star, Richmond Triangle Players offers that opportunity with “An Intimate Evening with Emily Skinner” on Dec. 31. Skinner, who has been an NYC staple for decades and scored a Tony nom as the costar of “Side Show,” brings her “Broadway My Way” cabaret that she’s performed around the country back to her hometown. The event will have both an early and a late show with the later one including champagne for toasting the New Year.

Footlights will be huddling by the fire roasting chestnuts for the next couple of weeks, returning on Jan. 8 rested and ready for the New Year.

Running: “Scrooge in Rouge” continues delighting audiences at Richmond Triangle Players until this Thursday, Dec. 22. Virginia Rep’s Christmas shows both continue until New Year’s Day and Swift Creek Mill’s heart remains in Texas with “A Tuna Christmas” until Jan. 7.

Friday, December 16, 2016

"Elvis Lives" Theatrical Tour Coming To Carpenter

Posted By on Fri, Dec 16, 2016 at 11:35 AM

The ultimate Elvis tribute show is coming to Carpenter Theatre on March 7.
  • The ultimate Elvis tribute show is coming to Carpenter Theatre on March 7.

What happens when you take a bunch of Ultimate Elvis Tribute contest winners from 2009, 2013, and 2015 and bring them to Richmond to kick off the King's birthday celebration? Things get real . . . sweaty.

The award-winning theatrical attraction Elvis Lives: The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Event" will be stopping at Richmond Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Arts Center on Tuesday, March 7.

Presented by Jam Theatricals, the multi-media live musical is a co-production of On Stage Touring's Legends in Concert division and producing partner, Elvis Presley's Graceland.

A bit about the show itself from a press release:

"Elvis Lives" is a journey across Elvis’ life featuring winners and finalists from Elvis Presley Enterprise’s (EPE) annual worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest™, each representing Elvis during different stages of his career. The tour marks the third time in the production’s six-year history that all three Elvis tribute artists are top winners of the contest. Bill Cherry, Dean Z and Jay Dupuis from 2009, 2013 and 2014 have reunited as the featured touring cast of ELVIS LIVES during the initial leg of the 2017 tour. They will be joined by a live band, back-up singers and dancers, along with an Ann-Margret tribute artist. The upcoming tour will see more songs added to the set list, including “Return to Sender,” “Bossa Nova,” and more. As a co-producer of the tour, Graceland is providing rarely seen restored video and photo assets from its Graceland Archives to enhance the production. The 2017 tour will feature new media direct from Graceland, never before seen on an ELVIS LIVES tour. Fans can expect to see new material and Elvis memorabilia provided.

Tickets go on sale to the public Monday, Dec. 19 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased online at BroadwayInRichmond.com, at Dominion Arts Center and Altria Theater box offices and by phone 1-800-514-3849.

Now for the real motivation behind this post, have a blue Christmas, yo.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Byrd Theatre Raising Ticket Prices

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 1:59 AM

The historic Byrd Theatre is one of the finest historic movie palaces in the country.
  • The historic Byrd Theatre is one of the finest historic movie palaces in the country.

The historic Byrd Theatre announced in a press conference on Tuesday that it will be raising its ticket prices from $1.99 to $4 for second run films, effective Jan. 1.

[Updated] The theater also announced much-needed new seat renovations should be ready by second quarter 2017, which roughly fits the guideline proposed several years ago.

The Foundation also announced that credit cards will now also be accepted as payment and they will be working on an online system.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


The behind-the-scenes action of Swift Creek's "A Tuna Christmas."

Posted By on Sun, Dec 11, 2016 at 6:00 AM

The cast of Swift Creek's "A Tuna Christmas."
  • The cast of Swift Creek's "A Tuna Christmas."

Choreography commonly refers to action that happens onstage. But in some special circumstances, the action behind the scenes has to be choreographed as well.

Swift Creek Mill's "A Tuna Christmas" is one of those situations. In this holiday-themed visit to tiny Tuna, Texas, just two actors, Richard Koch and John Hagadorn, play all of the town's residents. Pulling that off requires literally dozens of quick costume changes, potentially hampering the flow of the show if not for the carefully synchronized work of two hardworking assistants known as dressers.

"For some changes, the time we have to get Richard or John out of one costume and into the next is so tight that we definitely had to choreograph our steps," explains Alia Radabaugh, who, along with Vicki McLeod, works as a dresser for "Tuna." "There are opportunities for a variety of mishaps otherwise."

McLeod generally assists Koch, who happens to be her husband, while Radabaugh focuses on Hagadorn. But sometimes, they have to double-up on an actor. "Richard has four or five more changes than John," says Radabaugh. "And for a couple of them, Vicki has to work on his top half with a shirt, jacket and wig while I am changing boots and tucking in pants."

Radabaugh's ten years as a seamstress at the Mill makes her the perfect dresser. She worked with costume designer Maura Lynch Cravey in crafting the clothes for "Tuna," often making the customizations required to facilitate quick changes. "I can often see in real time what's needed and suggest that maybe some Velcro should go here or maybe this should be one piece instead of two," says Radabaugh. "Maura and I work together very closely and, for decisions that don't affect the design, I have some discretion."

Her experience also landed her an ongoing gig as a dresser for the Broadway in Richmond touring shows that come through town, like "Elf the Musical" that is closing today. But that experience is a lot different than "Tuna." "I've done some shows with big casts like 'The Lion King' or 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,'" she says. "I'm mostly making sure costume pieces are where they're supposed to be, almost like a maid picking up after the actors. For 'Tuna,' Vicki and I are moving the entire show, either preparing for a change or actually making one."

Radabaugh is largely self-taught as a seamstress, hired to work for the summer shows at Dogwood Dell after volunteering there in high school. She has progressed to acting as costume designer for shows like last year's "The Secret Garden" produced by SPARC and a recent production of "Smile" at the Appomattox Regional Governor's School. She says there's nothing like the excitement of actually working a show, though. "There is a kind of secret world backstage," she says. "For every five people on stage, there could be 15 milling about in the wings. It's one of the coolest things that people don't realize about theater."

Running: Just like the holiday sales, local stage productions start closing down next weekend. The last performance of Whistle Stop's “Little Women” will be Dec. 16 out in Ashland and the color drains from “Scrooge in Rouge” at Richmond Triangle Players on Dec. 17. You'll have until New Year's Day to catch the Virginia Rep shows “The Charitable Sisterhood Christmas Spectacular” and “A Christmas Story” while “A Tuna Christmas” celebrates at Swift Creek Mill until Jan. 7.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Review: "Elf, The Musical" at Altria Theatre: Friday, Dec. 9

Posted By on Sat, Dec 10, 2016 at 2:00 PM

"Elf, The Musical" runs this weekend at Altria Theatre with matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday.
  • "Elf, The Musical" runs this weekend at Altria Theatre with matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday.

Running time:

Two and half hours with a 20-minute break. If Friday’s large crowd is any indication of the popularity for this weekend run, you should plan on arriving at least 30 minutes or more before showtime.

What’s different?

There are a few minor, mostly cosmetic changes to the storyline. But Buddy the Elf’s character, played with gusto by Spenser Micetich, remains roughly the same innocent child, without Will Ferrell’s superior comic timing. You’ll recognize some dialogue from the film between the big, splashy musical numbers, but there’s little subtleness; the film’s more adult elements are left on the cutting room floor. The musical takes the giddy, family-friendly elements of the film and blows them up like balloon.

Standout performances?

Most of the actors did a fair to solid job with the fast-moving musical. But as far as voices go, Wyatt Rogers who played Buddy’s young stepbrother, Michael, seemed to have the most exhilarating pipes.

What about the songs?

Some are more memorable than others. The orchestral score can swing on certain numbers, but many felt formulaic. There isn’t a lot of nuance here. It’s big, simple hooks built around key moments from the film, plus a few new scenes that I won’t ruin by describing here. Any surprises will be valued.


This is pretty light fun for the entire family and some of the colorful, snowflake-laden sets are impressive. It’s definitely the kind of hyper, cartoonish, occasionally laugh-out-loud musical fare that will put some of the audience in the holiday mood (even if the plot is more ridiculous than the movie version).

Really, this one felt all about the costumes, sets and splashy dance choreography, more than anything else. Especially when you know what’s coming, for the most part.

Showtimes: “Elf, the Musical” has two more showings at Altria, Saturday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. And Sunday, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pick: VCU Staging Stories From Richmond Jail This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 3:45 PM

Kenn Pridgen, a sophomore costume design major, as prisoner Terence Scruggs in "Writing Our Way Out." - JULIA RENDLEMAN/UNIVERSITY MARKETING
  • Julia Rendleman/University Marketing
  • Kenn Pridgen, a sophomore costume design major, as prisoner Terence Scruggs in "Writing Our Way Out."

In November of 2015, Style Weekly ran an excerpt from "Writing Our Way Out: Memoirs from Jail," collected by Virginia Commonwealth University associate professor David Coogan from ten people incarcerated in Richmond's jail.

This weekend, VCU students will be bringing those stories to the stage.

The theatrical version of "Writing Our Way Out" will run Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. (with the book's authors in discussion) and 7 p.m. at VCU’s Shafer Street Playhouse. The shows are free and open to the public.

The monologue-driven play tells the personal stories of the writers and how they came into the local justice system and how it subsequently shaped their lives.

Here's more from VCU public affairs writer, Brian McNeil:

“These are real people’s lives, and their stories that have not been appreciated,” said co-director Sarah Velasco-Kent, a sophomore theatre performance major in the School of the Arts’ Department of Theatre. “We’re hoping to give a voice to people who have been silenced and start a conversation about topics that are really, really prevalent today — mass incarceration, the pipeline to prison, the really negative connotation with being in prison and having a rap sheet and being a felon.”

“This is an opportunity for education, but also for conversation,” said co-director Taneasha White, a senior English major in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “We're opening the floor up for everyone to have a discourse with the cast, the authors and anyone else who chooses to be involved during the talkback on Saturday.”

“We want you to go home and look up mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex, and see how it’s affecting your country in multiple, horrifying ways,” White said. “Look up how race plays a vital role. Then go out and try to change some policies. Or go out and volunteer at your local jail or with a re-entry program like OAR or donate to Sanctuary. There’s a couple million people that we've just completely been accustomed to ignoring, and that’s a huge problem.”

The original book version grew out of a creative writing workshop led by Coogan, which eventually led to the formation of the Open Minds program, a partnership between Richmond City Sheriff's Office and VCU that offers dual enrollment classes at Richmond City Justice Center, according to a school release.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

PJ Harvey Performing at The National In April

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 5:20 PM

English musician Polly Jean Harvey.
  • English musician Polly Jean Harvey.

Fresh off a recent Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, PJ Harvey is plotting her biggest North American tour in nearly a decade and Richmond’s the National made the cut.

Harvey will perform here touring behind “The Hope Six Demolition Project” on Saturday, April 22 with doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 in advance, or $50 at the door for the all-ages show. They go on-sale Friday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m.

Reviews have been strong for the album, the Los Angeles Times wrote:

"Rhythms, in the form of militant drum beats, create a boots-on-the-ground feel. Guitars, jagged and fiery, cut through the groove like a fist in the air. And saxophones are raw, dirty and ready to howl… If times are tough, Harvey seemed to be saying, we may as well go down swinging.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Comedian Chris Rock Coming To Altria in March

Update: Second show added on Monday, March 6; tickets on-sale now

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 11:30 AM

Chris Rock is making a good living off comedy.
  • Chris Rock is making a good living off comedy.

Big-name comedian Chris Rock will be performing his first stand-up tour in nine years, The Total Blackout Tour 2017, in Richmond. Rock performs at the Altria Theater on Sunday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m.

Rock first gained a level of fame for his show, "The Chris Rock Show," which featured the writing talents of Richmond native Bryan Tucker, now co-head writer at "Saturday Night Live."

Tickets for the Rock show go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9 at the Altria Theater and Dominion Arts Center box offices, by phone at (800) 514-3849 and at Livenation.com and etix.com. Tickets range from $49.50 to $125 plus applicable fees.

Rock recently earned $40 million for a pair of upcoming Netflix comedy specials, so he should be in a good mood. The American leg of the world tour kicks off in Durham, NC.

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