‘Va. Arts and Letters Live’ Coming Oct. 15
By Lisa Crutchfield 10/12/10
One of the Commonwealth’s premiere showcases of literary, theatrical and musical talent is coming to Henrico on Oct. 15.
Virginia Arts & Letters Live features Virginia actors reading works by Virginia writers, accompanied by Virginia musicians.
After several years in Richmond proper, VALL will stage its 2010 production at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. The show is co-produced by James River Writers and CACGA, in association with the READ Center.
“We’re excited about our new venue,” said VALL founder and director Irene Ziegler. “It will introduce VALL to a whole new audience.”
Ziegler, an actress and writer, uses her vast connections to secure top talents for an evening that is classy, stimulating and lots of fun.
Local performers this year include actors Jill Bari Steinberg and Tony Foley and musicians Kelly Kennedy, Andy Cleveland and Rachel Blake.
Actress Pat Carroll returns as featured guest. Area audiences remember her performances at the Barksdale Theatre (starting in the early 1980s), but she’s known internationally for her work on Broadway, television and film – especially to younger generations as the voice of the sea witch Ursula in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
She’ll read “The Happy Memories Club” by Lee Smith, a story of a woman who joins a writing club in an assisted living home and is kicked out because her memories aren’t happy enough.
Carroll is excited to be returning to Richmond, where she has many happy memories.
“I feel like I’m an honorary citizen. I have such a heart for it and it feels like home,” she said in a recent telephone interview from her home on Cape Cod. “Everyone is so kind.”
She has high praise for Ziegler, with whom she appeared in Barksdale’s production of “Grace and Glorie.” When Ziegler asked her to return as guest host of Arts & Letters Live, she didn’t hesitate.
“All Irene has to do is drop me an email or pick up the phone and I’m at her beck and call,” said Carroll. “I’m highly admiring of Madame Z.”
She plans to stay at a friend’s home and also to visit Barksdale’s Hanover Tavern location, where she worked years ago. It’s a tribute of sorts to old friends and Barksdale luminaries Pete and Nancy Kilgore and Muriel McAuley. She has fond memories of all-night poker games and gab sessions from the old days there.
A lover of the written, as well as spoken, word, Carroll says she is ready for VALL and a night to immerse herself in literature.
In a warm-up of sorts, she just returned from what she calls a “literary pilgrimage” to England.
“I think it’s because of language, because of Shakespeare and all the writers. It just feeds my soul.
“I had a bucket list item. I wanted to read Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere journal – which I adore – sitting on a rock by the lake.
“To have a quest is always a good way to travel.”
England was a great vacation, but the energetic Carroll loves traveling stateside, too.
“What I want to do is get a motor home and take my granddaughter to all the national parks,” she said. “There are certain things in this country you’ll never find in Europe. And Europe is a magnificent place, older and civilized, but they ain’t got some of the things we’ve got. This country is amazing.”
Carroll said she loves Virginia and considered moving here – until she thought about the hot summers and cold winters.
While not gallivanting around the globe, Carroll, 83, is happy to be field job offers. “I think I’m coming up to 64, 65 years on stage, but who’s counting? I am very grateful.”
She’s not planning on slowing down. “I really have to enjoy my life and get that bucket list finished,” she said. “I’m not going to leave here until I do. My kids are hysterical because now I’ll have to live to be 120. But I’m all vim and vigor.”
And she’d love to host VALL as long as Ziegler and her friends in Virginia want her.
Tickets for Virginia Arts & Letters Live! Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen (2880 Mountain Road) are $20 and available by calling CACGA at 261-ARTS (2787) or James River Writers at 433-3790.
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