It’s all about classic theatre for Brian Richmond, the producing artistic director at the Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre. “This season we are presenting two classics,” notes Richmond — Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf — “as well as Fire by Paul Leduc and David Young.
“We are working hard to do two things in Victoria. First, we want to build a theatre company the community wants, and second, we want to provide a training ground for early career professionals to learn their craft from action, producing, and stage management.”
That hard work is paying off. Last year, 10,000 people trooped to the McPherson Playhouse to watch Blue Bridge performances. The theatre company now boasts a thousand subscribers.
Blue Bridge has strong connections with the University of Victoria’s theatre department, which is not surprising as Richmond is the former dean of the faculty, and of the Canadian College of Performing Arts. “They are both wonderful organizations to work with,” he says. “The university has an emphasis on legitimate theatre and the college largely does musicals. They provide opportunities for all.”
Blue Bridge operates on the British repertory model in which young, aspiring theatre people work with mentors to learn their craft on the job. “Most of the actors we use are local, and thankfully Victoria has a wealth of talent to draw upon. It sure makes our work easier to have that talent close at hand,” says Richmond.
Blue Bridge is a non-profit society with most revenue coming from the box office. “Government funding for the arts has been more difficult to come by over the last few years and now accounts for only about five per cent of our operating budget. So we have to make sure we provide the community with theatre they will enjoy,” Richmond says.
The company produces four plays a year. “This year one of the plays we are staging is Fire, which was inspired by lives of Jerry Lee Lewis and the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, who were related,” he says. “It should be
Along with commercial success has come critical acclaim. “We were delighted to have A Streetcar Named Desire chosen by the Victoria Critics’ Spotlight Awards as the best show of the season for 2009-2010,” Richmond says with pride. Not only did the production win, but Thea Gill, as the infamous Blanche Dubois, won for best performance and Richmond himself won for best direction.
Check out the rest of the winners from the 2011 10 to Watch:
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