Virginia Stage Company: Curtain up. It’s showtime!

Way Beyond the Point

A scene from a Virginia Stage Company production of Fiddler on the Roof. (Sam Flint Photography)

Through initiatives that enrich the lives and culture of so many, Virginia Stage Company (VSC) strives to produce theatrical performances of the highest caliber with an emphasis on embracing dynamic cultural identities, both onstage and off. The premier professional theatre in southeastern Virginia, VSC was founded in 1978 by members of the Hampton Roads community who had a deep desire to make live theatre a part of the area’s cultural life. For its home, VSC chose the Wells Theatre in downtown Norfolk, which was fully restored in 1986 and is now a National Historic Landmark.

Built in 1912, the Wells Theatre represents the true hidden gem of downtown Norfolk, encompassing a variety of experiences as the only professionally producing house in the immediate area. The theatre opened in 1916 to a full house with The Merry Countess, a Schubert musical. Jake Wells installed a movie screen and projector, making the theatre the most dazzling, first-run movie house in the southeast, although theatrical bookings continued to occupy most of the Theatre’s schedule. Many of America’s leading performers appeared at the Wells, including John Philip Sousa, Billie Burke, Will Rogers and Fred and Adele Astaire. Built as a Broadway performance house similar to New York City Broadway theaters, VSC consists of 600 elegant red velvet seats, including box seats for distinguished guests that line the sides of a grand stage. As an inspirational and historic landmark for the Norfolk community, the theatre continues to celebrate aspects of modern culture, representing and celebrating the powerful history of American theatrics.

VSC has made the Wells its home since 1979. The extensive renovation brought the theater back to its former glory. The Wells Theatre is owned and operated by the City of Norfolk and is part of The Seven Venues.

Maris Smith

Maris Smith, VSC’s marketing director, says the theatre serves nearly 60,000 patrons annually. It strives to preserve the history of the facility while maintaining excellent performances year-round by casts developed from local actors and performers in addition to distinguished actors from across the country. “Our cast is a great mixture of the best local and a few professional actors from various cities across the United States. We hold local and virtual auditions as well as flying an in-house casting director to different locations to hold in-person auditions for actors not local to the area,” says Smith.

Smith immerses herself in the dynamic world of theatrical arts, supporting all aspects that bring theatrical performances to life on stage while serving on the events committee for Downtown 100 and the board of directors for Little Theater of Virginia Beach. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, getting lost on outdoor nature walks and most importantly, spending time with her family.

Smith says in her position with the theatrical company, hundreds of components go into preparing for a performance, such as optimizing digital campaigns for community outreach to showcase new and upcoming performances to working with the graphic design team to ensure website updates and campaigns are running smoothly. “Some of my daily responsibilities include being certain that my marketing team and I are on top of advertising campaign deadlines, maintaining website designs and updates, scheduling press interviews, overseeing box office operations, working with vendors and outside marketing agencies, as well as optimizing our digital campaigns to reach out to as many community audiences as possible,” Smith says.

“Growing up as a behind-the-scenes theater kid, it wasn’t long before I built a great appreciation for the work that goes into creating, coordinating and maintaining a theatrical cast. The diverse culture of our team really brings a new atmosphere to the local arts, and to have actors and artisans fly from places such as Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago to perform is really quite incredible to see,” Smith says with a smile. Virginia Stage Company also partners with local nonprofit organizations to help showcase various events and performances across Hampton Roads.

VSC continues to be an emblem for the many extraordinary arts, from costumes and choreography, sound, stage and lighting techniques to holding auditions and choosing cast members who represent a world-class theater for Hampton Roads. “In the theatrical community, area engagement and social outreach are so important as we consistently strive to create an environment that both advocates and celebrates the diverse culture of theatrical arts. By doing this, we are able to maintain an atmosphere that promotes literacy, cultural perspective and understanding, bringing communities together,” says Smith. With new renovations and exciting performances, VSC continues to fill its performance hall with joy as audiences erupt in laughter and experience drama for generations to come through its mission statement: We make memories together, building community through the extraordinary power of sharing a story.”

Upcoming VSC Performances

  • Jan. 24–Feb. 11: Dial M for Murder
  • Mar. 6–24: The Three Musketeers
  • Apr. 17–May 5:Blues for an Alabama Sky
  • May 8–19: Lay It Down — Music of the Everly Brothers

Virginia Stage Company
Address: 108 East Tazewell St., Norfolk, VA 23505
Contact: Maris Smith, marketing director
Phone: 757-627-6988

About Kayla Brundick 24 Articles
Kayla Brundick is a senior at Christopher Newport University (CNU) in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in English with a writing concentration. Alongside her academic course work, Kayla is also a social media promoter for the CNU Writing Center, gaining substantial social media marketing and writing skills. Outside of academics, she enjoys reading, writing, spending time with friends and family and traveling to new places. After graduation, Kayla will pursue a career in public relations as well as obtaining a master’s degree in English writing.