Welcome to the penultimate day of our Spring Fund Drive, Celebrating Virginia Theater. It’s nearly over – after today, there is only one more day of illuminating facts about the nearly 350-year tradition of Theater in Virginia, suitable for use at cocktail parties & potlucks. Please, help us reach our goal!

Did you know that the Richmond Theater Fire of 1811 which killed 72 people, including the governor of Virginia, was, at that time, the worst urban disaster in American history?. This terrible tragedy provided anti-theatrical voices with ammunition in a debate in which theater was equated with the devil’s work.

It is Thanks to YOU, our loyal supporters, that the Hamner Theater is alive and flourishing in Nelson County. We are your theater! But this theater doesn’t come for free, or even for the low $10 ticket price. We can continue to bring theater to you only through your continued generosity. Any amount you can give will help us to bring you more theater, more music, more adventure. No donation is too small…

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 200 donations of $100.

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:

  • unexpected adventures in improvisational theater

Have you tried our FREE Improv classes, held every Monday? What are you waiting for?
Our next Evening of Improv will be Saturday, May 14, An Odyssey with HIT, on the set of Ocean View Odyssey. Entrance by donation. Come & play!

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 more than $100 per ticket to make our basic budget. But we are committed to keeping our ticket prices at $10, so that everyone can come. Do you support this idea? 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). Donate Button

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

Answers to Day 5 Questions:

Famous Virginians: Explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Richard E. Byrd were all born in Virginia.

Bonus Question: Answers tomorrow – scroll down for a few more quotations.

What is the word never uttered in a theater (besides MacBeth)?
Keep reading!

Read on to find out interesting facts about Theater in Virginia.

The Richmond Theatre fire occurred in Richmond, Virginia on December 26, 1811. Much has been written about it, see the Wikipedia article & its references from which this account is extracted.

“The evening of December 26, 1811 at the Richmond Theatre was a benefit for Alexander Placide and his daughter. The benefit had originally been scheduled for December 23, but was postponed due to the death of Mrs. Poe, Placide’s own illness, and foul weather. It being Christmas time and the last opening of the season, the theatre on December 26 was packed with an excited audience of 598 people, with 518 adults and 80 children.” (Note, 600 people constituted about 6 percent of Richmond’s population at that time.)

“The fire started after the curtain fell following the first act, when the chandelier was lifted toward the ceiling with the flame still lit, and part of the scenery caught fire, spreading rapidly. The impact of the fire was worsened because the stage curtain hid the initial flames from the audience.”

From the Richmond paper: “Seventy-two persons died that night. Whether the more cumbersome dresses of the women were the cause of it or whether most men forgot to say “Women and children first,” the fact remains that of the 72 persons, 54 were women and 18 were men, among them Governor George W. Smith who had plunged back into the burning building to rescue his child.”

The editor of the Richmond Enquirer, who was in the audience, wrote:
“The cry of ‘fire, fire’ passed with electric velocity through the house; every one flew from their seats to gain the lobbies and stairs. The scene baffles all description. The most heart-piercing cries pervaded the house… Many were trod under foot; several were thrown back from the windows, which they were struggling to leap. The stair-ways were immediately blocked up; the throng was so great that many were raised several feet over the heads of the rest; the smoke threatened an instant suffocation.

“Many leaped from the windows of the first story, and were saved; children and females, and men of all descriptions were seen to precipitate themselves on the ground below, with broken legs and thighs, and hideous contusions. Most, if not all, who were in the pit escaped…

“How melancholy that many who were in the boxes did not also jump into the pit, and fly in the same direction. But those who were in the boxes, above and below, pushed for the lobbies -many escaped through the windows; but most of them had no other resource than to descend the stairs; many escaped in the way, but so great was the pressure that they retarded each other, until the devouring element approached to sweep them into eternity.

“The fire flew with a rapidity almost beyond example. Within ten minutes after it caught, the whole house was wrapped in flames. The pit and boxes had but one common avenue, through which the whole crowd escaped, save those who leaped from the windows…

“The bells tolled; almost the whole town rushed to the fatal spot…Every article of the Theatre was consumed, as well as the dwelling house next to it.

“This tragedy changed the joy and lighthearted ways of the people of Richmond and Virginia, for many years to come.” (Richmond Enquirer).

Epitaph on the monument erected shortly after the fire :
“… many citizens, of different ages, and of both sexes, distinguished for talents and for virtues, respected and beloved, perished in the flames; and, in one short moment, publick joy and private happiness were changed into universal lamentation…”

In the aftermath, local authorities reacted by declaring a cessation of all business for forty-eight hours, and a 4-month ban on ‘any public show or spectacle, or any public dancing assembly within the city, under the penalty of six dollars and sixty-six cents for every hour the same shall be exhibited’. As a more lasting memorial to the victims, it was decided to build a church on the site. The Monumental Church, completed in 1814, still stands there today, although it was deconsecrated in 1965.

It has been suggested that there was another lasting effect of the fire, which led to a permanent shift in the nature of Richmond: “Through the public discussions of the fire, Richmonders, and Virginians, debated what they believed to hold their community together and what they thought their city should aspire to.

“Prior to the fire, Richmond had sought to cast itself as an international and cosmopolitan enclave … Virginians went to Richmond not just for trade or politicking, but also to make themselves culturally literate…

“…Evangelical ministers used the fire as a jumping off point to attack the theatre and other secular amusements and to refocus people’s attention on the church… They and city fathers alike, in the aftermath of the fire, took steps to sever Richmonders’ (and Virginians’) ties to an Atlantic culture and to turn their gaze inward, upon their region and their communities, as well as their churches. In sermons and publications, religious leaders made sense of the disaster as God’s punishment for the city’s sins and called upon Virginians to turn their backs on superfluous entertainments and interests and fix their sights very narrowly on the Lord.

“Popular amusements took on a very different character in this new environment that was distinctly southern, distinctly American, and distinctly evangelical”

Bonus Question:
Multiple Choice (part 2)! Match the quotation to the source. Who said:

1) “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

2) “Art is never chaste.”

3) “I haven’t any money – I am an actress, not a banker!”

4) “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

a) Oscar Wilde
b) Arkadina, from The Seagull, by Anton Chekov
c) Anne Frank
d) Winston Churchill
e) Pablo Picasso
f) Dodge, from Buried Child, by Sam Shepard

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.

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