• Penny Neef

April and May at the Bank Street Stage!



Words by Penny Neef. Images courtesy of the Virginia Arts Festival.


Virginia Arts Festival launches the 2021 season on Monday, April 12 with Oliver Wood, Grammy-nominated Americana/Roots artist and lead singer of The Woods Brothers. Woods will perform on the new, outdoor venue in downtown Norfolk, Bank Street Stage. The 2021 season is looking a whole lot better for the performing arts in Hampton Roads. Read all about this exciting new venue here!


VAF’s Bank Street Stage is being erected in an empty lot on the corner of Bank Street and East Charlotte Street, across from Scope Plaza in Norfolk. Bank Street Stage has been designed to meet CDC guidelines, including socially distanced seating.


Oliver Wood, a man with long straight blonde hair wearing a black t-shirt stands in front of a non-descript building.

Oliver Wood will be the first of many performers on the Bank Street Stage. Wood is known as a Roots artist, but says he is heavily influenced by soul, gospel, and the blues.


Zakir Hussain and three other percussionists headshots, unlabeled, so we don't know which is which. They all hold a drum of some kind, except for the third man, who is sitting at a trap set. His is the only photo in black and white.

Bank Street Stage won’t be sitting empty for long. On Tuesday, April 12, Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion will fill the tent with sounds of drums from India, Persia, Uzbekistan and American jazz. There will be a pre-show yoga practice in Scope Plaza. Bhav Brigade, a community-based, nonprofit, pop-up yoga organization, will lead a yoga class outdoors. Donations will be accepted, and all are welcome. There is plenty of room on Scope Plaza to socially distance.


The flier for August Wilson's How I learned what I learned, with the VAF, NSU and VSC logos. A man stands in silhouette against a background that is a wall with handwritten notes pinned up to it. There are so many notes you can't see the wall.

With ten performances over two weeks from April 14 – 25, VAF is partnering with Virginia Stage Company and Norfolk State University Theatre Company to present a stage reading of August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned. It is Pulitzer Prize-winning Wilson’s autobiographical account of growing up in Pittsburgh’s Hill district and how it shaped him as a writer. Anthony Stockard, NSU Theatre Company Producing Director, will be playing the role of Wilson in this “tough and funny” one-man show.


Virginia Opera 2021 Spring Season Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti Limited in person performances May 2021, copresented with the virginia arts festival, visit vaopera.org for more information. A pink background with some pink flowers on top, and on the right side, a grey tiki-man cup that appears to be filled with ice.

On Friday and Saturday, May 7 and 8, VAF joins with Virginia Opera to present a different type of opera, in English, set in 1950’s suburbia. Picture Mad Men with jazz, blues, scatting, advertising jingles, pop ballads, and classical music all mixed together and you have Trouble in Tahiti. Leonard Bernstein’s accessible opera is a day in the life of a married couple “surrounded by the troubles and temptations of American life.”


On May 10, VAF co-presents, with Feldman Chamber Music Society, the Brentano Quartet. This string ensemble has performed around the world for over 25 years. There will be more chamber music on Bank Street Stage in the months to come.


May 13th, the “greatest living guitarist on the world stage today” will perform on Bank Street Stage. Manuel Barrueco was born in Cuba, and fled with his family to the United States when he was a teen. He has been playing the guitar since he was eight years old.


For all of you Tattoo fans, the Virginia International Tattoo will return this year. Bank Street Stage is not large enough to hold this annual spectacle, so the Tattoo will be staged at the new Ballard Stadium at Old Dominion University for four performances from June 3 – 6. I love the Tattoo and am so excited to watch it outdoors in Ballard Stadium. Scott Jackson, Tattoo producer, and his team always put on a great show. Tattoo 2021 will be no exception.


Don’t forget, the performances at Bank Street Stage will carry on, rain or shine. When you buy tickets, you will be buying a socially distanced pod. There will be touchless entry, and all CDC guidelines will be followed. You can “purchase with confidence” from the VAF online box office

right here.


Virginia Arts Festival will have a “segmented roll-out” in 2021, announcing a series of events in three to four weeks chunks. After all, we’re still in a pandemic and if 2020 taught us anything, it taught us to be flexible. VAF is doing a fabulous job of bringing live performance back to Hampton Roads. Stayed tuned right here for more announcements about the VAF 2021 season. Stay safe out there.