During the early 1990s, when I was assisting in the formation of the Firehouse Theatre Project, I also endeavored to kick-start a Richmond theater cooperative. The intention was to make it so that representatives of the theater community could sit at one table and discuss our mutual challenges.
I was told that Robert Watkins, a grand old man of Richmond theater, wouldn’t be interested in such a thing. “He’s just disagreeable,” I heard. “He’ll never want to be part of something like that.” Instead, he ended up chairing the early version of the Richmond Alliance of Professional Theatres (RAPT). He arranged to conduct our meetings in the splendid rooms of the Woman’s Club's Bolling Haxall House. These sessions launched the organization.
That group has gone on to do good work, including the sponsorship of the annual recognition of theater achievements, the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards. That event is Oct. 20 at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre (formerly the Empire) Marjorie Arenstein Stage at Virginia Rep Center.
Robert Watkins died last evening. He, along with partner deVeaux Riddick, received the Lifetime Achievment recognition for the 13th Annual Theresa Pollak Prizes for Excellence in the Arts. This was the same year that GWAR also won. Two more opposite characters you can’t imagine, except that both are long enduring, they enjoy theatrical undertakings and have set a standard in their field. But I’ve never seen Dave Brockie in a suit and pocket square.
Robert and I spoke less frequently in recent years, but when given the opportunity to telephone for theater business he’d inquire, “Harry Kollatz Jr! What hat are you wearing today?”
I wrote about his and deVeaux’s life in theater, design and urbanity, here.