Henley Street Theatre merges with Richmond Shakespeare

Two of the city’s theatrical companies have announced that they will merge, effective next year.

Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare announced today that the two theater companies will merge effective next year to combine resources in a collaborative partnership.

“I think that by pulling the resources to consolidate operations and programming, [it] will help us achieve solid resource management,” said Jacquie O’Connor, founding member and managing director of Henley Street Theatre, a nonprofit organization founded in 2007. “In a time of economic turndown, this is a very smart thing for both companies to do.”

According to O’Connor, discussions of the merger began in earnest last November. Last month, the two theater companies outlined a Memorandum of Understanding–a detailed plan of how the two companies would operate together beginning the next fiscal year.

“People have been telling us for years that we should merge because our missions are so similar,” O’Connor said. Talks arose after Henley Street’s Artistic Director, James Ricks, announced he would leave the company after four years. Henley Street would soon lack vital artistic direction.

Around that time, Richmond Shakespeare’s board president, Brendan Williamson, said the theater company, founded in 1985, was in need of management experience.

“Our missions were already in sync, and now our needs were too,” Williamson said. “Jacquie O’Connor’s management acumen and [Richmond Shakespeare Artistic Director] Jan Powell’s artistic leadership are complementary.”

Both companies will co-produce a joint season under existing names, retain respective board of directors, and share managing and artistic directors. The merger will also allow the educational outreach of both companies to continue.

Jacquie O’Connor thinks the consolidation will embolden the creative mission of each company.

“We will be able to achieve greater results together than as separate entities,” O’Connor said. “Coming together will allow us to produce the visionary theatre our patrons have come to expect, while remaining financially responsible to our donors. In the words of William Shakespeare, it is a ‘marriage of true minds.’”

The companies will announce their upcoming joint season on May 11th at the Bootleg Ball fundraiser at the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

Production of Macbeth with Zoe Speas as Lady Macbeth – taken by BJ Wilkinson

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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