Welcome to the second day of our Spring Fund Drive, Celebrating Virginia Theater, as we continue to bring you illuminating facts, suitable for use at cocktail parties & potlucks, about the nearly 350-year tradition of Theater in Virginia.

Did you know that the very first theater in British North America was in Virginia? The first theatre in British North America was built on the Palace Green in the colonial capital of Williamsburg, Virginia in 1716, by prosperous merchant (& former dancing master) William Levingston, who ‘purchased three and one-half acre lots and erected thereon a dwelling house, kitchen and stable. He laid out also a bowling alley and built a theatre.’

It is Thanks to YOU, our loyal supporters, that the Hamner Theater is alive and flourishing in Nelson County. We are your theater!
We can continue to bring theater to you only through your continued generosity.

Our Goal for this Spring Fund Drive is $20,000.
We are the grateful recipients of two $5000 donations. These donations came with a challenge – we need to raise double the amount, or $20,000. To put this in perspective, $20,000 is 16 donations of $1250.
$1250 = theater light board (OR eligibility to buy one reserved parking space for all 7 UVA football home games…)

Any amount you can give will help us to bring you more theater, more music, more adventure.

Thanks To All Who Have Already Given!
Please accept our heartfelt thanks and know that it is only because of YOU that we are able to continue bringing you…

  • great plays and playwrights, new and old

Next onstage at the Hamner, we will bring you the world premiere of Robert Wray’s play Ocean View Odyssey. Award-winning playwright Robert Wray is a graduate of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and has had plays produced all over the country. His play All Is Always Now (which was developed, in part, at VPSI) was staged last spring as part of our 5th season, and was received with great enthusiasm by audience and critics alike. “There really doesn’t seem to be room for further improvement in this script. The play is funny, it’s moving, it explores universal truths in a specific way. It works on many levels… This production, with these actors and directors, is terrific.” (Clare Aukofer, Daily Progress)

Come for Opening Night, next Wednesday, May 11th, and stay after for the free Champagne Reception, or, attend either of the Friday shows & stay after for a Talkback with Robert Wray.

How you can help to make our Spring Fund Drive, Celebrating Virginia Theater a success by giving to the Hamner Theater.

Remember, if we were to survive on ticket price alone, we’d need to charge $133 per ticket to make our basic budget. But we are committed to keeping our ticket prices at $10, so that everyone can come. Theater is a vital part of any community and we hope when you think ‘theater’ you think Hamner!

Three easy ways to donate today:

  • Call 434.361.1999, or, use our contact form to make a pledge.
  • Download a donation form, and mail it to us at Hamner Theater, P.O. Box 106, Nellysford, Virginia 22958.
  • Donate via PayPal (no PayPal account required).
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Please support the arts in your community by making a donation today…the Hamner Theater needs YOU.

The Hamner Theater is a non-profit 501(c)(3) project of the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nelson County, VA. All donations to the Hamner Theater are tax-deductible.

Answers to Day 1 Questions:

Actors Warren Beatty, Sandra Bullock, Joseph Cotten, Rob Lowe, Shirley MacLaine, Mackenzie Phillips, George C. Scott and Olive Borden* were all born in Virginia!

(*Born in Richmond, and known as The ‘Joy Girl’, silent film star Olive Borden was Tom Mix’s leading lady and worked with John Ford, Howard Hawks and Leo McCarey. Her film career was cut short following the advent of ‘talkies’, and she died on Skid Row at age 41, her only possession a signed photograph of herself. She has been commemorated with a star on Hollywood Blvd.)

Bonus Question
Like the Buddha, the Hamner Theater relies on donations to survive.
Like the Buddha, we know the jug fills drop by drop.

Read on to find out interesting facts about Theater in Virginia.
Do you know why Virginia has been called the cradle of American theater (part 2)?

In the early part of the 18th century, in Puritan New England & Quaker-dominated Pennsylvania especially, the theater was ‘considered the highway to hell and was everywhere fiercely condemned if not actually forbidden under the severest penalties.’

However the South was more tolerant, and there are records of performances in Virginia. (Although, few records exist, as there was no newspaper in Virginia until 1736, when the Virginia Gazette was first published, and most evidence comes from court proceedings or prohibitions…) In 1702, students at William & Mary College in Williamsburg performed A Pastoral Colloquy for the Governor. In the winter of 1703, Anthony Aston, ‘actor from Drury Lane Theatre, London turned adventurer’, toured the colonies including Virginia ‘on both side of the Chesapeake’. In 1718, Governor Spotswood wrote a letter mentioning eight members of the House of Assembly who ‘slighted an invitation to his house to witness a play’. He writes:
“In order to the solemnizing His Majesty’s birthday, I gave a public entertainment at my home and all gentlemen that would come were admitted. These eight gentlemen would neither come to my house nor go to the play which was acted on the occasion, but, on the contrary, these eight committeemen got together all the turbulent and disappointed burghers to an entertainment of their own in the House of Burgesses and invited the mob and plentifully supplied it with liquor…”

But the most important theatrical milestone is a contract dated 11 July 1716, between William Levingston, merchant, and Charles and Mary Stagg, Actors, agreeing to build a theatre in Williamsburg and ‘to provide actors, scenery and music from England for the enacting of comedies and tragedies. This contract created colonial America’s oldest known company.’

‘Unfortunately, the story of the Levingston-Stagg Company is not a happy one for William Levingston, whose career spearheading the 1st Williamsburg Theatre resulted in numerous lawsuits, entanglements with servants, a defaulted mortgage, an eviction, and finally his quitting the county altogether.’

No performances in this theater are recorded after 1736, and in 1745 the playhouse was purchased by ‘prominent men of the colony’ and presented to Williamsburg as a town hall.

Famous Virginians, part 2: Can you name at least 8 famous singers who were born in Virginia?

Bonus Question:
How is the Hamner Theater like a Prius?

Tune in tomorrow for more interesting information you can use to impress your friends…and for the answers to today’s questions.
Please support the arts in your community by making a donation today – the Hamner Theater needs YOU.

Special Offer – the first 25 people to respond with a pledge will be entered in a raffle for a Hamner Theater T-shirt!

If you know someone who might need help with cocktail conversation material, please forward this email to them. Thanks again.

Thanks to Arthur Hornblow, Odai Johnson and William J. Burling and the Wikipedia for the information.