Welcome to the first day of our Spring Fund Drive: Celebrating Virginia Theater! For one week (and only one week), we will bring you illuminating facts, suitable for use at cocktail parties & potlucks, about the nearly 350-year tradition of Theater in Virginia, theater then & now.

Did you know that the first amateur performance on record in America was in Virginia? We know of this performance only because the actors were subsequently summoned to court! Evidently, from the very start, theater has struggled to find its role in American culture.

It is Thanks to YOU, our loyal supporters, that the Hamner Theater is alive and flourishing in Nelson County. We are your theater! We can continue to bring theater to you only through your continued generosity.

Our Goal for this Spring Fund Drive is $20,000.
We are the grateful recipients of two $5000 donations. These donations came with a challenge: we need to raise double the amount, or $20,000. Any amount you can give will help bring you more theater, more music, more adventure.

Thanks To All Who Have Already Given!
Please accept our heartfelt thanks and know that it is only because of YOU that we are able to continue bringing you:

  • great plays and playwrights, new and old
  • wonderful evenings of music and song
  • Shakespeare productions for everyone
  • unexpected adventures in improvisational theater
  • special events to surprise you.

Read on to find out some interesting facts about Theater in Virginia.

Why has Virginia been called the cradle of American theater (part 1)?
Virginia’s long tradition of theater, both professional and community, dates back to colonial days. Ironically, we owe much of our knowledge of theater in colonial times to records of opposition to it, and Virginia’s first recorded performance is no exception to this rule.

The first performance in English in the colonies on record was in August, 1665, when William Darby’s play The Beare and The Cubb, most likely a political satire, was performed in Accomac County, VA, by William Darby, Cornelius Watkinson and Phillip Howard. Following a complaint by Darby’s neighbor Edward Martin, the actors were summoned to appear at Court (in fact, in a Tavern functioning as a temporary Court) ‘in those habilments that they then acted in, and gave a draught of such verses or other Speeches and passages, which were then acted by them’ (that is, with costumes & scripts).

In this instance, theater won out: the justices found nothing offensive in the performance, the players were found not guilty of any indiscretion, and Martin was saddled with the court costs.

What do Sandra Bullock, George C. Scott, Joseph Cotten, Shirley MacLaine, Warren Beatty, Mackenzie Phillips, Olive Borden, and Rob Lowe have in common?

Bonus Question:
How is the Hamner Theater like the Buddha?

Tune in tomorrow for more interesting information you can use to impress your friends…and for answers to today’s questions!

Special Offer – the first 25 people to respond with a pledge will be entered in a raffle for a Hamner Theater T-shirt!

Scroll down for simple instructions for how you can help
Remember, if we were to survive on ticket price alone, we’d need to charge more than $100 per ticket to make our basic budget. But we are committed to keeping our ticket prices at $10, so that everyone can come. Theater is a vital part of any community and we hope when you think ‘theater’ you think Hamner!

Three easy ways to donate today:

  • Call 434.361.1999, or, use our contact form to make a pledge.
  • Download a donation form, and mail it to us.
  • Donate via PayPal (no PayPal account required).

The Hamner Theater is a non-profit 501(c)(3) project of the Rockfish Valley Community Center. All donations to the Hamner Theater are tax-deductible.

Please support the arts in your community by making a donation today – the Hamner Theater needs YOU.

P.S. If you know someone who might need help with cocktail conversation material, please forward this email to them. Thanks again.

Thanks to Odai Johnson and William J. Burling for these fascinating facts about the early days of Virginia theater.