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Kaye Weinstein Gary’s latest solo piece is inspired by David Mamet’s The Dog. Sarah Ferguson photo
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Thomas Ragland dances in Richmond Ballet's Studio series. Sarah Ferguson photo
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In Richmond's overlapping universes of theater, dance and music, numerous extraordinary talents work to create something from nothing. A bare stage becomes a Southern mansion or a gritty apartment. Stages also host the interpretations of modern movement and those of the classical ballet. Here are five practitioners who live in these imaginative and often collaborative orbits.
1. The Dancing Master: Kaye Weinstein Gary
Artistic achievement often begins when the creator realizes something doesn't exist in the world, and then sets out to make it happen. Kaye Weinstein Gary became a member of the dancing community here after moving to Richmond in 1979 from the University of Kansas to help create Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Dance. She founded the nonprofit K Dance in 2000. Almost 16 years ago, she produced the first YES! Virginia Dance invitational, in part to stay connected to the wider world of dance by bringing it here. At the Dogtown Dance Theatre on April 25 and 26, she'll open "Shorts," a series of movement-theater pieces, with direction by Billy Christopher Maupin, Molly Hood and Jan Powell. "I love to see how the theater and choreographic storytelling complement each other," she says. The 2014 YES! Virginia Dance will run Oct. 19 and 20.
2. Simply Irresistible: Eva DeVirgilis
Four years ago, actor Eva DeVirgilis moved to Richmond from New York City, where she'd landed roles in Law and Order: Criminal Intent and the daytime drama All My Children. She performed improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and racked up stage credits, too. DeVirgilis' sister, Richmond actor/producer Ellie St. John, persuaded her to look at the more affordable Richmond scene. She's worked ever since, as a makeup stylist and as an actor under lights and before cameras. She'd been on stage here — each performance more notable than the last — when gaining recognition in 2012 for a tour de force in the one-woman The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe for Henley Street Theatre. Through March 9, she plays Elmire in Virginia Repertory Theatre's Tartuffe. She also appears in the AMC Revolutionary War series Turn, and she'll take on another demanding one-person role, Hypocrites and Strippers, by Kim Yaged, about a feminist who dates pole dancers, at Richmond Triangle Players, April 30 to May 17. "It's a big stretch for me," she says. "And it'll be a good excuse to work out."
3. Brought Up By Ballet: Thomas Ragland
There's not been much of his life that Thomas Ragland didn't dance. The native of Richmond's North Side started taking dance classes at age 3 at the Royal Dance Co. in Chesterfield County. He later joined Annette Holt and the City Dance Program, and moved to the Richmond Ballet in 1999. Ragland, 27, is proof that the arts can allow a person to see the world: He's been with the company in New York City and London. In 2004, he attended the Summer Dance Intensive at the Juilliard School in New York City. Ragland injured an Achilles tendon at the start of the 2013-2014 season, but he says everything's fine now. He teaches ballet, jazz and modern dance classes as a guest instructor at the City Dance Program's Pine Camp center and jazz at the School of Richmond Ballet. For a while, he's contemplated opening his own small studio to give back to the community. "If it's five kids, it's five kids," he says. "You start small and grow."
4. Triple Threat: Billy Christopher Maupin
Like numerous Richmond performers, Maupin landed here 10 years ago accidentally on purpose after the typical theater yo-yo life following graduation from Western Kentucky University and an ambition – but no money — to start a theater in the Southwest Virginia town of Wytheville. He got a call to come to Richmond when Richmond Shakespeare staged a reduced cast production of Much Ado About Nothing. It required Maupin to play several roles. He arrived on a Tuesday morning and hit the stage Friday evening. He forgot his lines only once. Cynde Liffick, the company's co-founder, played Don John, and Maupin realized he was dressed as Claudio when he needed to be Borachio. "And I told Cynde, ‘I don't know what my line is.'" She started him with the phrase, "Where hast thou been, villain?" He says, "She knew exactly what I needed to get in character, and off I went." After a brief New York City effort, he began a seven-year association with Theatre IV/Virginia Rep and also played in the recently revived Shakespeare and Galileo at the Carpenter Science Theatre. A breakneck pace during the past couple of years has demonstrated Maupin's versatility as a dramatic actor and musical performer. His earlier one-man concert show, the intimate and confessional Mad about the Boys, revived in 2013, got a January sequel, with Life Upon the Wicked, Wicked Stage. The two shows are slated for repertory this spring. In March, he goes into a Carol Piersol production of Patti Issues. He'll be the second actor outside writer Ben Rimalower to portray Rimalower's estrangement from his gay father and the writer's obsession with Broadway star Patti LuPone. Then Maupin directs in the Kaye Weinstein Gary movement theater showcase.
5. A Classical Turn: Director James Ricks
James Ricks brings full-blooded brio to his classical portrayals and direction. It's living theater, not museum pieces. In his previous role as artistic director of Henley Street Theatre Co., he raised the banner of a relatively new production group. His rock-and-roll Bootleg Shakespeare, which put marquee talent into a minimally rehearsed, one-night-only production, became a much-anticipated show, for audiences and performers alike. He received the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Director for his 1930s-authoritarian production of Julius Caesar. The native Canadian earned a master of fine arts degree from the Shakespeare Theatre Co.'s Academy of Classical Acting in Washington. With last year's merger of Henley and Richmond Shakespeare, he is now taking on individual projects. Right now, he's working with Richmond's TheatreLAB for a weekend performance of Oscar Wilde's Salome at the SPARC Center in May. "It'll be like a ‘Bootleg' in that it'll be intense and stacked with Richmond's finest theater names," he says. In the spring he's directing a new version of Cinderella, by Richmonder Louise Keeton, that's entered into the New York Children's Theater Festival. This summer, Ricks will helm Macbeth for the summer production of SPARC.