Wednesday, April 23, 2014
One of 14 semi-trailers that moves the show
The Time Dragon perches atop the proscenium, and the map of Oz is installed at the Altria Theater, where more than 100 crew members have been unloading 14 truckloads of equipment, sets and costumes in preparation for tonight’s opening performance of Wicked. The show ended its run in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday night, and started rolling in to Richmond on Monday.

“So if we all have a Southern accent, it’s because we ate too much chicken and fried green tomatoes,” says Steve Quinn, company manager.

Wicked isn’t new to Richmonders, having played at the then-Landmark Theater in March 2010 and October 2011. When I note that the show still seems to be popular, Quinn quips, “That’s our moniker,” and adds, “Richmond’s been very good to us.” At this time, there are nine productions of Wicked running worldwide, he says, adding that the Broadway show has had foreign language productions in Mexico and Seoul, South Korea. In nine years, there have been around 3,400 performances.

Preparations under way in the Altria Theater

As Galinda sings to Elphaba, “It's very shrewd to be very, very popular.”

Speaking of Elphaba, the green one — famously portrayed by Idina Menzel — will be played in this production by Emma Hunton, who makes her debut tonight, taking over for Alison Luff. Hunton’s credits include Ilse in Spring Awakening on Broadway and Maureen in Rent off-Broadway. Her standby is a rising star from Norfolk, a 2007 Governor’s School for the Arts graduate named Emmy Raver-Lampman. Raver-Lampman has been with the company for three months and performed the role just a half-dozen times, Quinn says, adding, “You’d never know it.” Raver-Lampman has appeared in Broadway productions of A Night with Janis Joplin, Jekyll and Hyde and Hair, as well as touring productions of the latter two.

Company manager Steve Quinn

The cast also includes Gina Beck as Glinda/Galinda, Alison Fraser as Madame Morrible and Saturday Night Live alum Tim Kazurinsky as the Wizard.

When I visited the theater on Tuesday to take a look at the set-up process, I also spoke with production stage manager David O’Brien, who maintains the vision of the director and designer. He’s been traveling with Wicked for a little more than two years, but has been in this line of work for about three decades—much of it on Broadway.

Production stage manager David O'Brien

“By going to different cities, it feels like you’re doing a new show,” he says. “We’re constantly opening, and we’re constantly being refreshed.” 

In addition to the cast, 18 crew members travel with the show, and the rest are hired locally to help with set-up. (Twenty-eight of those work during the show as well.) In addition, there are six musicians who travel with the production and an additional nine local musicians are brought in. O’Brien says the orchestra was set to begin rehearsing Tuesday, and the cast would arrive Wednesday afternoon.

Wicked is at the Altria from Wednesday (April 23) to May 4. Tickets starting at $40 are available at 800-514-3849 or A lottery for $25 orchestra seats (with a limit of two per person) is held two and a half hours before each show at the box office.

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Scott Sizemore
(Updated 4/22) It was quite a week for former Virginia Commonwealth University baseball star Scott Sizemore. After a two-year layoff, Sizemore finally made it back to the big leagues on April 16 when the New York Yankees recalled him from the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders. He appeared in both ends of a doubleheader sweep vs. the Chicago Cubs at Yankee Stadium, and had an impact in the nightcap.

After going 0 for 3 in the opener, Sizemore legged out an infield hit in the fourth inning of the second game, eventually scoring the game’s first run in a game New York won 2-0. He accounted for the second run by lacing a clean RBI single to left in the fifth inning — Sizemore’s first run-scoring hit since 2011.

The following night, Sizemore played first base for the first time professionally and added to his eventful week, picking an errant throw out of the dirt to help complete a triple play against the Tampa Bay Rays. On Friday (April 18), Sizemore hit a three-run double, giving the Yankees an early lead, though the Rays ultimately won.

Sizemore’s return to the majors was a long time coming. He missed all of 2012 after injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while a member of the Oakland Athletics. After rehabbing the knee, Sizemore returned to Oakland in 2013, only to suffer the exact same injury just two games in to the season.

The Yankees recalled Sizemore to replenish their injury-depleted bench, but by Sunday, he was back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room on the roster for the first baseman Mark Teixeira, returning from the disabled list, among other changes in the line-up. The 29-year-old Virginia Beach native owns a career .238 average in MLB, with 14 home runs and 70 RBI. He was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers and made his debut with Detroit in 2010.

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The day's events include a journey by torchlight along the Trail of Enslaved Africans.
Meet Abraham Lincoln, find codes hidden in quilts and learn about American slavery by torchlight at the fifth annual Civil War and Emancipation Day held by the Future of Richmond’s Past. It’s all happening Saturday (April 12) from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. to commemorate the 150th anniversaries of the war and proclamation of freedom for slaves. With more than 25 activities spread out all over the city, there is a little something for everyone, says Edward Ayers, University of Richmond president and chair of the event’s steering committee.

“Every site has a different tempo and a different flavor,” says Carolyn Martin, a steering committee member.

The event is free to the event is free to the public with the exception of the Civil War Sampler Bus Tour. The $25 tour beginning and ending at the Valentine Richmond History Center explains Richmond’s role as the capital of the Confederacy while visiting sites in the city as well as the battlefields of Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor, says Alyssa Murray, project coordinator. A reservation is required for the tour, but registration is encouraged, though not mandatory, for all other events.

The Civil War and Emancipation Day is a collaboration of historical institutions working together to celebrate the unique history of Richmond, Murray says. The event began in 2010, when it drew a crowd of 2000 after being put together in 30 days, Martin says.

 “This seemed to be the quickest way to take advantage of what we had,” Ayers says. Last year, 5,000 people attended the Civil War and Emancipation Day.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s RamRide will provide shuttle service, and student volunteers from UR, VCU and Virginia Union University will help with the event, Ayers says.

Richmonder Elizabeth Van Lew was an
abolitionist and Union spy.

Many cities have some sort of commemoration for the Civil War, but Richmond is unique in its inclusion of slavery emancipation, Ayers says. The event offers many different perspectives, including the slaves and women during this time period.

“It gives people a chance in their own backyards to take pause,” Ayers says.

The committee adds something new every year, with this year’s event featuring a walk through the brand new Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, which recently moved to 00 W. Clay St. The interior is not entirely finished, but people will still be able to walk through and see the new site for the first time, Ayers says.

Each attendee will receive a “passport” to carry around to the locations. They can get a stamp for each location they attend, Martin says. Ten stamps will earn a free T-shirt.

A spy tour is another new feature this year. The Spies, Unionists and Resurrectionists: Richmond’s Unionist Underground Bus Tour is a street-guided tour discussing unionist spies living in Richmond during the Civil War at 10 a.m. and another at 1 p.m., both departing from Chimborazo Medical Museum. Pair this tour with the family-friendly Civil War Spies program at the Valentine Richmond History Center from noon to 3 p.m. to learn about African American and abolitionist roles and the ways information was passed, such as through hidden messages in quilts.

John Mitchell Jr., an equal rights activist and
newspaper editor, will be portrayed
at the Maggie Walker National Historic Site.

Walk the path of the slaves on the Trail of Enslaved Africans to experience the hardships of being a slave on a three-hour, 1.5-mile, torch-lit walk at 6:30 p.m. The shuttle will leave from Main Street Station. Martin recommends this activity and says to try it even if you attend only one activity all day. 

“It’s fun to be a tourist in your own town,” she says.

There will be free parking at the Virginia Historical Society and Main Street Station. Both locations are shuttles stops providing free transportation around to any of the locations. Parking is also available for $5 at the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, another shuttle stop. “Abraham Lincoln” has been known to make an appearance on these shuttles, Murray says. Food vendors will be present at most locations as well.

Meanwhile, planning is already underway for next year’s event, which will commemorate 150 years since the end of slavery and the Civil War, Murray says.

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Irene Ziegler on the set of The Walking Dead
with series protagonist Rick Grimes in the background.
Did you happen to catch Richmonder Irene Ziegler in the latest episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead post-apocalyptic zombie drama? She tells us:

“On March 30, I was backstage, awaiting my entrance in a student musical at the University of Richmond when I got a text from my son, Addison Martz (VCU ‘15). ‘OMG! You’re a cannibal!’ he wrote, referring to my appearance on the season 4 finale of The Walking Dead. That was a big surprise to me, too. The producers keep such a tight lid on the show, they wouldn’t even let me read a script. I arrived on set and was handed my lines, which provided no clues or context beyond my description as ‘Broadcasting Woman.’ I’ve since learned that the writers are famous for killing off their human characters, so I count myself lucky to still be among the living. Whether I’ll return in season 5 is a secret not even my agent knows, so I can’t say if I’ll eat or be eaten. I’m just really pleased to have some street cred with my son, who calls me ‘momster.’ ”

If you missed the episode, you can probably catch it On Demand. And we’ll just have to wait until series returns in October to find out Ziegler’s fate. Meanwhile, you can see her in a less carnivorous role as Polly Wyeth in Virginia Repertory Theatre's Other Desert Cities, directed by Chase Kniffen and also starring Joe Inscoe and Melissa Johnston Price, from April 24 to May 18. In this Tony-nominated play by Jon Robin Baitz, a daughter's plan to write a tell-all memoir about her politically influential family sets off fireworks.

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Today through Sunday, the Latin Ballet of Virginia will perform El Beso de la Abeja (The Kiss of the Bee), to promote awareness of the critical need to protect nature, in particular bee populations, which have decreased by 3 million hives since 2006. Honeybees are the most effective flower pollinators, without which flowers would die, leading to a downward spiral for living things.

Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Francisco Mesa, a composer from Spain who helped write music for part of the production, will dance along with the 30 other Latin Ballet dancers ranging in age from 7 to 45, says Ana Ines King, artistic director of the Latin Ballet. “We combine flamenco technique with contemporary dance, tribal dances from Brazil like Capoeira and hip hop,” King says.
Spanish composer Francisco Mesa

This performance will take place from April 3 to 6 at the Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen. Using original music incorporating natural sounds of the bees with musical instruments, the dances serve to represent the relationship between humans and bees with an artistic flair, King says.

Kiss of the Bee was inspired by Verde de Jardin (Green Garden), a Latin Ballet performance from a few years ago that focused on protecting the environment and promoting nature. A friend introduced King to a composer whose music incorporated the sounds of bees. She then began learning about the history of the bees and their important role in the circle of life, something other civilizations had noticed. The bees’ actions parallel the meaning of love, she says: “Love for them is like giving without expecting to receive.” King thought this was a positive message for families, especially children, given the prior success of Verde de Jardin.

Later this month, the troupe will be embarking on a 10-day trip to Mexico, where they'll represent the United States at the “Feria Internacional de Libro 2014” during the international cultural festival “Feria de San Marcos.” The Latin Ballet will perform El Pintor in the Mexican states of Zacatecas and Guerrero from April 20 to 28.

Tickets for the current show are $15 for students, children and senior citizens, and $20 for adults. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

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