Photo by Chris Smith
Joel Bassin at the Firehouse Theatre Project
As Joel Bassin taught acting and production classes at Hunter College in New York City’s Lower Manhattan, the theater department chairman pondered the idea of leaving the bright city lights to explore opportunities elsewhere.
Enter Richmond. Bassin, who takes over this month as producing artistic director for the Firehouse Theatre Project, says that when he looked into the Firehouse opening, he was impressed with Richmond’s arts community. “It’s very unusual for a city outside of New York or maybe Chicago to have this amount of theater activity in it,” he says. The Firehouse chose Bassin after a national search to take the place of Jase Smith, who moved to San Francisco.
Bassin, 61, has a master’s degree in directing from Rutgers University and a doctorate from the City University of New York. He has previously served as managing director of The Wooster Group, as producing director of the Tribeca Performing Arts Center and as company manager for the experimental theater collective Mabou Mines. “I think he’s going to bring something very unique and different here in Richmond,” Smith says.
During the past two years, the Firehouse has struggled to rebuild relationships in the local theater community after the controversial departure of founding artistic director Carol Piersol. Bassin says that he hopes to help restore connections. “I would love to meet Carol,” he says. “I would love to meet everybody and hear everybody’s story about what happened, but I wasn’t here. I’m more interested in what’s going to happen next.”
In the Firehouse’s first production with Bassin on board, from Feb. 5 to March 7 the company will present the world premiere of This World We Know, directed by Kerrigan Sullivan. Winner of the 2013 Festival of New American Plays, it follows an estranged brother and sister who are trying to reconcile after growing up within a hostile family environment.
“I think it’s a great piece for the Firehouse to be doing for so many reasons that have to do with material and the content and the subject matter,” says Bassin. As the theater’s producing artistic director, he adds, “it’s my job to maximize everything that was good about it, overcome the challenges that small theaters always face and just continue to have it be a dynamic place that is a source of really high quality work that artists can think of as home and that the community can think of as a theater that they’re proud to say they’ve been to.” 355-2001 or