Randy Strawderman has directed and produced theater on the local and national stage. He co-wrote and directed Red Hot & Cole, which premiered at Barksdale Theatre in Richmond before receiving an Equity Workshop Production off Broadway and a first-class production at the Variety Arts Theater in Los Angeles. RH&C is currently licensed by Music Theatre International and produced worldwide.
He has directed national tours of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Child’s Christmas in Wales. As co-founder and artistic director of the former Studio Theatre of Richmond, Strawderman launched Young Writers for the Theatre, Virginia’s first statewide new-play festival for middle and high school students. Now called New Voices, the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary in the spring of 2009 at the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond community.
As founding artistic director of The Colonel Read Foundation for Courage in the Arts, Strawderman wrote and directed RED BADGE of Courage, a new epic American musical adapted from Stephen Crane’s novel, with music and lyrics by Carlos Chafin and Robbin Thompson. Co-produced by Virginia Military Institute, Red Badge premiered at the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts in Lexington, Virginia.
While artistic director of Barksdale between 1998 and 2001, Strawderman directed the American premiere of Alex Finlayson’s Misfits; produced Ernie McClintock’s production of John Henry Redwood’s The Old Settler at the National Black Theatre Festival; and wrote and directed “Ella & Her Fella, Frank,” a concert made in heaven.
Strawderman teaches and directs for the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, Virginia, and is currently writing his own one-man show.Question: What led to creation of Red Hot and Cole?
Randy Strawderman: I was doing shows at Barksdale at Hanover Tavern, and I got a job in Winston-Salem doing Ben Bagley's "The Rise and Fall of the Entire World As Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter. It was a fun show, but it was a revue. I became fascinated by Cole and wanted to read everything I could on him.
Q: How did you come up with the party structure?
RS: I went back to Barksdale and started thinking about an idea. Cole was Rich, he was galavanting all over the world, sight seeing and writing songs that no producers were interested in. I had an idea of a musical party set on one room that floated from New York, Paris, Venice, back to New York, etc. Muriel McAuley & Jim Bianchi joined me and we started working.
Q: You were the original director, how hard was it to direct and create the work at the same time?
RS: YES, I was the orriginal Director. We were going to open it in a couple months, haha. It took 9 months for the baby to pop out.
Q: How much input did the cast have on the final version of the book?
RS: The cast did a lot, they came up with marvelous ideas. Nancy Kilgore, one of the founders of Barksdale, created the role of Elsa Maxwell, and she was marvelous.
Q: When did you realize that you loved theatre?
RS: When did I realize that I loved theater? About 3, when I first saw Jimmy Durante on TV, TV was so new then and he was the grandfather I never had. I imitated him and started putting on shows for my brothers and parents.
Q: You directed the original production, the 20th anniversary production and just completed directing a high school production at the Virginia Governors School for the Arts. How has revisiting the show so many times given you a new perspective on the process of developing the show, or on the show itself?
RS: Revising the show for The Governor's School for the Arts, Departments of Theatre and Musical Theatre - was a BLAST. It took me back to the first production at Hanover Tavern. a similar set up, audience on three sides, intimate and personal. They were GREAT....so much fun, so much talent. Revising the show many times as been great - and not so great at the same time. Our big chance in Los Angeles with George Lee Andrews, Jonelle Allen and Kay Ballard was good, Great talent - but the spirit of the show - the "PARTY" got lost. George Lee Andrews was a great Cole and Jonelle was a hot hot hot Bricktop, but too mann cooks in the kitchen, if you know what I mean.
Red Hot and Cole opens Friday, March 2 and runs three consecutive weekends through Sunday, March 18 at the historic Monon Depot Theatre at the corner of 5th Street and North Street in downtown Lafayette.
Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday shows begin at 2:30 p.m. For more information about the show or to order tickets, call 765-423-PLAY (7529) or visit Civic Theatre's website.