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After more than a year of darkness imposed by COVID-19, the Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community (RAAC) Theater brought Rappahannock’s own theater back to life on Friday night with a magnificent performance of “Let Me Down Easy,” a very human play by Anna Deveare Smith. You can still see the performance online this weekend, Saturday and Sunday. You don’t want to miss it.
The performance includes four of the most accomplished actors who have ever appeared on the RAAC stage: Andy Platt, Erin Platt, Stephanie Mastri and Mike Mahoney. You have seen each of them in stellar performances at the Theater in “Uncle Vanya,” “Proof,” “The Gin Game,” “Arcadia,” “Waiting for Godot,” “Good People,” “You Can’t Take it with You,” and others.
The technical side of the performances have been ably put together by Stage Manager Beth Plentovich, Howard Kelly and Cynthia Stamps. Bravo to All.
Go to RAAC.org/let-me-down-easy/ to register to see the free performance.
There is one risk in all of this: A few Rappahannok residens have suggested that the theater should be merged into the Little Washington Theater on the opposite side of Gay Street. It would be hard to imagine a more disastrous proposal. Although fine for concerts, political meetings and occasional shows, the Washington Theater is not appropriate for small theater. For one, it is too big. If the audience only fills half the hall, the performance will be dull. In any case, rehearsals (especially by amateur theater) need rehearsal space when they need it, not just when it may be available. And the backstage space would often be too small for live theater.
Of all the activities available to the kids of Rappahannock, acting and backstage work may be the most beloved activity. In the past year, Russell Paulette, the very popular drama coach at the high school left our county. There is no other theater in which our youngsters, as well as adults can act, sing or work.
RAAC's theater building belongs to the county. The deed provides that the theater can only be used for non-profit purposes, and not for commercial purposes. Our mayor has, however, raised a serious question about the risk of fire in the building. Although there has never been a fire, the mayor's concerns seem well placed. The theater has only one set of entry doors on Gay Street and no emergency exits.
A skilled Rappahannock architect who is familiar with the safety requirements of public theaters and how much it would cost to meet these requirements is studying the theater. Several people have already suggested the possibility of a contribution to the theater from theater-loving citizens. Such contributions would probably be much more worthwhile than the amphitheater and new library suggested for the Rush River Commons.
The writer, who is RAAC Theater’s Artistic Director Emeritus, lives in Flint Hill