Sep 19, 2018
Arts Council, Heritage Theatre Festival

This Arts Council-funded Project is entitled American College Dance Association Conference (ACDA).  The project was proposed by Jenny Wales, Artistic Director of the Heritage Theatre Festival.

Heritage Theatre Festival at the University of Virginia, under the new artistic direction of Jenny Wales, will produce its 44th season of professional theatre during the summer of 2018. Heritage is committed to ensuring that it produces the highest level of professional theatre, bringing in working artists from across the country to intersect with the students, faculty and staff at the University of Virginia. Heritage will produce a season that celebrates American stories, delivers entertaining and engaging professional theatre, and reflects on our uniquely challenging times. The season begins with the Tony award-winning, classic musical A Chorus Line which will be presented from June 21 through July 1 in the Culbreth Theatre. The production will be directed and choreographed by UVA alum Matthew Steffens, an internationally-acclaimed actor/director/choreographer whose Broadway credits include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown with Patti LuPone and Promises, Promises alongside Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth. Next up, Mary Chase’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy Harvey, will be presented from July 5-15 in the Ruth Caplin Theatre, and will be directed by Seattle-based director Desdemona Chiang. Chiang’s credits include shows at leading regional theatres and companies across the country including Seattle Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theater and Playmakers Repertory Company, among others. The Cocoanuts, a madcap comedy with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and a book by George S. Kaufman comes to the Culbreth stage from July 19-29. In this new adaptation by Mark Bedard, The Cocoanuts marks the Heritage return of Frank Ferrante, who wowed audiences here in his award-winning one-man show An Evening with Groucho in 2014. Mr. Ferrante will star in and direct The Cocoanuts. Ferrante’s performance in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia was recently cited by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 10 performances of 2017. The 2018 Heritage season will close with The Mountaintop, which will be presented in the Ruth Caplin Theatre from July 26 through August 5. The Mountaintop will be directed by Kathryn Hunter-Williams. Hunter-Williams is a company member and director at PlayMakers Repertory Company and the Associate Director of Hidden Voices, a company committed to challenging, strengthening, and connecting diverse communities through the transformative power of the individual voice. The 2018 Heritage Theatre Festival season will be dedicated to the memory of David W. Weiss, a founder of Heritage Theatre Festival and former Chair of the Department of Drama.

Heritage is committed to strengthening the relationship between the work it produces and the students at the University of Virginia. Heritage has made offers to 10 undergraduate and graduate students to join the 2018 company. With the casting of HARVEY still to come and production personnel still being hired, HTF projects that this number will double by the start of the season in late May. In addition to the students who will join the 2018 HTF company, Heritage is expanding the relationship between students and professional artists to extend into the academic year. Design meetings for both A CHORUS LINE and THE COCOANUTS have already taken place in Charlottesville. Graduate students in scenic design and technical production were invited to attend the design meetings and masterclasses were held with director/choreographer, Matthew Steffens and director Frank Ferrante with undergraduate and graduate acting students. Through these programs, UVA students are exposed to different methodologies as well as the expansion of their networks. HTF will also offer student tickets at $15 for all shows. HTF has not raised the price of student tickets in over 10 years and is committed to ensuring that tickets are affordable and accessible. Heritage Theatre Festival projects that close to 1000 students will attend the productions in Charlottesville this summer. Heritage also projects the involvement of 15 UVA faculty/staff in the 2018 season.

As the only professional theatre company in Charlottesville, Heritage Theatre Festival’s work must serve the greater Charlottesville community. The artistic work we produce enhances the cultural vibrancy of Charlottesville while also having a direct impact on the local economy. Americans for the Arts recently published a study documenting the average economic impact of a single patron was $24.60, independent of the cost of the ticket. With an average of 11,000 patrons attending HTF annually, Heritage’s patrons have an economic impact of $270,600 on the Charlottesville community over the course of the seven-week summer season. This season, Heritage is making a commitment to art as a vehicle for conversation. During the run of THE MOUNTAINTOP, a post- show discussion will take place each night following each performance. Discussions will include members of the artistic team, actors and community leaders as well as experts on Grounds and each discussion will focus on the themes of the play and how they relate to the issues we currently face as a community, commonwealth and nation. HTF’s production of THE MOUNTAINTOP, a fantastical re-imaging of the eve of Martin Luther King’s assassination, is programmed during the 50th anniversary year of King’s assassination and will perform a year following the tragic events in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2017.

By producing the highest quality of professional theatre and ensuring that we are serving our community, the work done at Heritage Theatre Festival will have a direct impact on the University of Virginia, the commonwealth and our country. Heritage is hiring nationally and internationally renowned artists to join us for the summer. The intersection between recognized artists and our students, faculty and staff at the University of Virginia broadens the reach of the work that we do while ensuring that our students are exposed to artistic rigor and professionalism. This season, Heritage has expanded the national scope of our work by holding auditions not only in Charlottesville, Va but also in Washington, DC and New York City and has travelled to Southeastern Theatre Conference in Mobile, AL to hire production personnel. Heritage has also been featured in national publications such as Backstage, Playbill and Broadway World. Heritage has also secured Broadway actress Nikka Graff Lanzarone to star in the 2018 production of A CHORUS LINE. The increased national presence in the artists who work at Heritage and an enhanced marketing plan to clearly distill and promote the work we produce will have a long- lasting and profound impact on Heritage and the University of Virginia’s presence as an artistic beacon on the national scene.

The goals for the 2018 Heritage Theatre Festival are to raise the professionalism of the work we produce, serve the University and greater Charlottesville communities and ensure fiscal responsibility. To measure our success, we will institute patron surveys following each performance so that we can accurately gauge our patrons’ response to the work and the experience they have had in our theatres. HTF will implement an enhanced marketing plan with an increased emphasis on social media to ensure that we are promoting the work that Heritage produces in our community of Charlottesville, throughout the commonwealth and the nation. To ensure fiscal responsibility, new budget tracking procedures have been implemented across all departments and will be monitored weekly so that we stay on budget and develop contingency plans in real time. Heritage also projects an increase in attendance throughout the 2018 season through the implementation of a new ticketing structure which will increase capacity in our theatres. Projection models have been implemented for season and single ticket pricing and weekly meetings will be held to track and achieve our goals. At the end of the 2018 season, we will distill all data to create a comprehensive report on each of Heritage’s new systems and processes.

The Arts Council provides advocacy, advice, and support in the Arts at the University of Virginia. It strives to develop and strengthen the bonds of interest and participation among the Arts Departments, their associated programs,  and their alumni and friends; to advocate on their behalf; to advise and assist with communications; and to help raise funds in support of academic programs, facilities, and special events. Among its multitude of arts advocacy efforts, the Council awards annual Arts Council Grants. These grants have, and continue to play an instrumental role in a number of  residencies, workshops, project and research-based endeavors proposed across Arts Grounds annually. This series of articles will highlight each funded project and serve to inform the UVA community of their unique timelines, progress and outcome reports.