Spotlight Saturdays -Sponsored by the Sandler Center Foundation
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
Virginia Musical Theatre
Interview by Rebecca Edwards. Images courtesy of Virginia Musical Theatre
This week, Spotlight Saturdays spoke with Mark Hudgins, Executive Director of Virginia Musical Theatre (VMT). VMT was founded in 1991 by Jeff Meredith to provide a “musical only” theatre format to the Hampton Roads area.
What makes your work unique to our community, and why is that important? VMT is the official Musical Theatre Company of Virginia Beach. We are the only company that presents full seasons of nothing but musicals. We are fortunate that we are able to bring talent straight from New York to grace our stage and provide a richer experience. Musicals tend to bring in bigger audiences and we have shown there is a market for it here in Hampton Roads.
What education programs are offered? We offer an internship program with the Governor’s School for the Arts. Chip Gallagher is the Artistic Director of VMT and the chair of the Musical Theatre Department at the Governor’s School for the Arts. Through his dual responsibilities he creates a bridge that offers opportunities for the students to learn all positions with a production both on and off stage working with professionals.
How have you/your staff been handling COVID / what have you been doing since the shutdown? We are a small organization. We have a staff of 2 full-time, 5 part-time, and 144 subcontractors. Of the entire staff, everyone but myself have been furloughed during this time. We have no clue when we will be able to return to production. I’m hoping for Phase 4 to hit around October/November. That would allow us to host a 50% capacity. Right now, the actors union and the musicians union have very stringent standards that prevent their members from participating in anything for a while. This may or may not affect our return. No matter what, we will still provide high standard performances with amazing talent on our stage as soon as it is safe to do so. Since the shut down I continue to ask myself, “What shows can we perform that will provide a safe space with social distance for our actors while entertaining our audiences? How can we provide a safe space for our audiences to attend the performances?” I know the actors and everyone in the arts is chomping at the bit to return just as much if not more than the audience wants us to return.
What have you learned from the way the production of the world tour of ‘Phantom of the Opera” is handling the pandemic as it continues to perform for audiences in Seoul? I wasn’t aware there were any productions still performing. I would definitely be interested in looking into this and learning more and if there’s anything we can apply to our situation here.
What are some passion projects that you hope to work on while we are “paused”? I haven’t been able to work on anything specific. I continue to tread water and dream about our future seasons and look forward to post-COVID conditions. I’m looking for anything to bring people back faster when it’s safe to do so. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the Public Domain that we can use to lessen our financial burden upon our return. That doesn’t mean we won’t have a season. We will just have to find things that are real crowd pleasers.
What are you personally most looking forward to after the shutdown? I’m looking for normal. I detest the phrase “New Normal.” I’m just looking for normal. Normal will be when people are free to get on a stage and express their creativity with an audience to enjoy it. Of course, we could film something and share a taped performance, but nothing compares to the live performances of theatre. The instant feedback the cast and crew receive from people in their seats watching a performance is not something that can be recreated with a recorded performance. There is something magical when you feel the joy of an audience enjoying a performance.
Is there an upcoming project you would like people to know about? Once we have reached and maintained Phase 4, we will be presenting “Mama Mia.” We have dates throughout the year already booked with The Sandler Center that we can step in and bring this production to our community.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about? The hardest thing throughout this entire event has been being deemed unnecessary. I hope that people realize that the arts are an important part of society and acknowledge what a drag real life would be without it. Keep in mind the artists, tech people and everyone in the arts. Please be patient as we continue to tread water until we can get in front of people. Don’t forget us. We are just as anxious to be on that stage as you are to have us there. I’m worried people will forget we exist. I want to remind them that we have a vibrant cultural life here in Hampton Roads that is alive. We are not gone – just resting. We are not dead. We will be back!
Where can people find you for partnering and donations? Virginia Musical Theatre is still accepting donations to help keep them moving forward after this pandemic. More information and online donation opportunities can be found at www.vmtheatre.org or by contacting their office: Virginia Musical Theatre 265 Kings Grant Rd #100 Virginia Beach, VA 23452 Phone: 757-340-5446 All gifts are tax deductible.