Phil Crosby joined the RTP board of directors in 2000 and succeeded Michael Gooding as managing director in 2009. Photo by Jay Paul
From its first fundraising show, a series of one-acts titled "Safe Sex" that was staged to benefit the Fan Free Clinic, Richmond Triangle Players has produced plays that run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous. Today, after a 2009 move to its current Scott's Addition home, RTP's productions still have LGBT content, but it's not always the primary focus. As the company prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary on Sept. 15 at the Hippodrome, Managing Director Phil Crosby talks about RTP's past and present significance.
RM: When you travel to other cities and theater communities, and you say you're from Richmond, running a theater that was founded on the emphasis of LBGT issues, and it's now 20 years old, what's the reaction?
PC: In the circles I travel in, RTP's presence makes Richmond sound more appealing than when we make national news sadly for other perhaps more dubious occasions.
A community grows an organization that it needs. In New York and other bigger cities, this specific voice has been absorbed into the life of the existing theater companies. Here, we need that specific voice. As a result, we're seeing more companies producing LBGT-community-sensitive plays. I think we've brought that subject to the fore. We've always said we wanted to be a positive voice.
RM: How did the move to Scott's Addition indicate a shift of the company's history and its appeal?
PC: Before the move, Virginia Commonwealth University helped us do a survey [of our patrons] in which 30 to 40 percent of the respondents self-identified as straight. I don't have the statistical data to back this up now, but I bet that number has since shifted to 50 to 60 percent.
RM: The RTP has stayed close to its origins and its audience. What's been your guide for success?
PC: Our mission hasn't changed. Some of the work is very on point, particularly with what we've done in the Acts of Faith Festival, and there's also rampant silliness, like Musical of Musicals and Whoop-Dee-Doo! Some are a little controversial. Old as La Cage aux Folles is — it premiered 30 years ago — we're still arguing what constitutes a family, who should be raising a family. Somebody asked me years ago at another theater company, "Why are you doing [Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play] A Doll's House? " My response was: Have you talked to many women lately?
Businessman Michael Gooding, actor/director Steve J. Earle, playwright Jacqui Singleton and entrepreneur Marcus J. Miller Jr., who died in 2008, founded Richmond Triangle Players in 1992.
Tickets for Sept. 15's RTP 20th Anniversary Gala at the Hippodrome, featuring Terri White (seen lately in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies ) are $100. 346-8113 or rtriangle.org .