Tom Driscoll 
Member since Jan 16, 2013


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Re: “Opinion: We Should Save the City-Owned Westham Station from Negligence

During the 1990s, when the Science Museum of Virginia acquired the locomotive that had been sitting (and deteriorating) in the Travelland park (the caboose could not be saved because it had been gutted by a fire set by someone camping inside it), the museum also investigated the possibility of acquiring and relocating the Westham Station to its campus. The plan was to build a loop track around the old Broad Street Station railyard (encompassing what is now the Redskins training facility) for the restored Bocock Trolley to travel with the old Westham Station providing a second stop for the exhibition areas at the far side of the Science Park to be built in the old railyard. The Westham Station would have been placed where the current (remaining) railway siding to Broad Street Station crosses Leigh Street Extension (where the amphitheater/playground is at the far end of the training facility). The museum also envisioned relocating the Virginia Aviation Museum to the State motorpool property across Leigh Street Extension from the railyard, and the trolley loop would connect the two. At that location, the Westham Station could also serve as a platform for the excursion trains running from Broad Street Station. When State engineers inspected the Westham Station to see if it could be relocated, they found that while the City had made cosmetic repairs to it in the 1980s, the City had not maintained it structurally and it had deteriorated to the point where it could not be moved without completely disassembling it and more or less rebuilding it from scratch. The final product might superficially look like the old station, but it would be largely a new structure (and for that reason would lose its historical designation and not be eligible for any funding associated with preserving/restoring a historic building). Needless to say, the museum's plans for the Science Park, the trolley loop, and the relocation of the Aviation Museum also did not pan out for a variety of reasons.

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Posted by Tom Driscoll on 11/25/2017 at 5:18 PM

Re: “Footlights

And with respect to all of the items that I have listed above (a list to which others will certainly add), it is extremely important that RVA's major publicly-owned venues such as Richmond CenterStage and the Altria Theater become more involved in showcasing home-grown theatre to the audiences that attend their main-stage productions and might expand their attendance to and support of local productions in smaller venues.

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Posted by Tom Driscoll on 05/30/2016 at 11:45 AM

Re: “Footlights

With respect to your comment about "what economic calculus": Typically several factors that become more important as RVA has more theatre opportunities--which are competitive as well as collaborative.
--- With a typical "main-stage" production lasting only four to six weeks and only three to five of them per year for most theatre companies, that leaves a lot of empty space in between. Events in between those major productions have become almost a necessity in order to keep a theatre company--other than a few of the oldest & largest--in the "top of the mind" of potential audience members. This is especially important for theatre companies which lack their own "house." This is true even if many (or all) of those in between events are not "profitable" in and of themselves. As attention-getting and relationship-building loss-leaders, they help to sell tickets to the main-stage productions by encouraging media attention and audience awareness.
--- Long-term success for a Richmond theatre company depends greatly on its ability to attract four distinct audiences: frequent theatre attendees, regular but in-frequent attendees, occasional attendees motivated by buzz (Richmonders HATE to be left out!), and new theatre attendees. Appealing only to the first category or even the second will not pay the bills for theatre companies either with their own house or which are itinerant. Non-main-stage productions help to turn the latter two categories into the former two using a combination of lower ticket prices and intriguing "hooks."
--- RVA has a lot of talented artists, established and emerging. Even with our many theatre companies, it is difficult for all of them to find opportunities to maintain, strengthen, and showcase their skills. Artists clamor for chances to demonstrate what they can do or experiment. Directors appreciate the chances beyond the audition process to see what artists can do and to test material or staging concepts before they go to the expense of a full production.
--- Ticket sales do not begin to pay the bills for RVA theatre companies and every possible opportunity must be found to cut costs. Those making decisions on funding may not be frequent theatre attendees, so it helps to have a greater number and diversity of offerings to attract their attention and encourage their contributions. Similarly, the more opportunities that volunteers have to participate, the more dependable and engaged they become.
--- RVA theatre depends on talent both on and off the stage. The more activities that a theatre company can sponsor--even if some of them only break even or lose a bit--the more it can attract, retain, and reward proficient professional staff. That can, in turn, raise the quality and consistency of all its offerings and constituent relations in a positive feedback loop.
--- Collectively, it is all about relationships. Those engaged in one way are more likely to become engaged in another way, and building loyalty among all constituents is critical to long-term success. Occasional theatre goers have their favorites, but with more and more opportunities vs. limits on time and expenditures, even the frequent theatre attendees do, too.

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Posted by Tom Driscoll on 05/30/2016 at 11:41 AM

Re: “Water Slide Coming Downtown This Summer

Their track record across the country is rather spotty. Looks like things didn't work out too well in Hampton last year, and they apparently cancelled at the last minute in Roanoke.
Looks like things didn't work out too well in Hampton, and they apparently cancelled at the last minute in Roanoke.…

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Posted by Tom Driscoll on 01/27/2016 at 1:52 PM

Re: “Tacky Light Tours: 30 Years Ago, Barry “Mad Dog” Gottlieb Changed Christmas in Richmond Forever

Just missed a seat on the second bus the first year, so my wife and I joined the "motorcade" following them. As the evening ran long, the number of cars diminished and the speed of the buses increased. The map provided was helpful, but for some of the less obvious locations, it was very important to keep the buses in sight. We worked our way up to be in the first few cars behind the second bus. Still have vivid memories of the "rapid transit" of the intersection at Belvedere and Broad. The first bus "pinked" the changing light; the second bus and about ten of the cars including us just kept on coming through the red light, like a funeral procession only with no police escort and with horns blaring. The second year, we made sure that we had tickets for the bus! And we still have our "boarding pass" buttons, pinned to our Christmas stockings. Thanks, Mad Dog!

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Tom Driscoll on 12/16/2015 at 11:58 AM

Re: “Resurrection Hopes for North Side Bloom In Six Points Shopping District

Few things in RVA would bring me more joy than seeing a renaissance of Highland Park. My parents' first apartment overlooked the park, and I was born on Florida Avenue. While we moved out to a (then) rural part of Hanover County shortly after I was born, a great deal of my childhood was spent there in the homes and businesses of family members and friends. Its architectural infrastructure is still strong and with its proximity to the core city, it is a neighborhood just a step or two away from revitalization. I hope that its current residents and the City can find away to take those steps.

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Posted by Tom Driscoll on 04/08/2015 at 3:30 PM

Re: “Legislators Hand CenterStage a Win

While many traditional, reputable nonprofit organizations still exist in the greater Richmond community and serve the public interest well, the issue raised above by Becky is a serious and growing problem. For many, nonprofit/tax-exempt status is just another business model that enables them to avoid taxes, fair labor standards, and other regulatory costs that apply to for-profit, tax-paying businesses, as well as tap into pools of workers paid via means other than cash--interns, social/civic/business group partnerships, and "episodic" volunteerism by large employers as a form of community relations--and pools of government, foundation, and corporate funding--the latter of which in the form of "cause marketing" is just repackaged advertising and public relations. This allows these businesses masquerading as nonprofits to compete unfairly with for-profit businesses offering similar, if not identical, goods and services both in pricing and in the amount of net revenue available for business development and compensation of their principals. Businesses in the guise of nonprofits exist in the Richmond area not only in the arts/cultural sector but in social/housing services, real estate/economic development and associated financial services, leisure services/entertainment, consumer products & services, etc. In some cases, these are stand-alone operations, in other cases they involve a partnership of one or more for-profit entities and a nonprofit organization with interlocking leaderships (sometimes disclosed and sometimes concealed). By carefully compartmentalizing assets and liabilities between their for-profit and nonprofit components and by careful labeling of activities--such as calling marketing & promotion "education" or "community development"--to comply with the letter, if not the spirit, of tax law, their return on investment is maximized at the expense of competitors and higher taxes paid by others. The explosion of this kind of activity in the past two decades is a significant cause of the erosion of public trust in nonprofit organizations and should be of concern to all those which are truly acting in the public interest. Sooner or later, there is likely to be a regulatory or public-opinion backlash that will inflict damage on traditional, legitimate nonprofits as it attempts to reign in the abusers of the system.

7 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by Tom Driscoll on 02/18/2015 at 1:28 PM

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