Centenary currently has a partnership with Quill Theatre who rehearses many of their productions at the church.
Acts of Faith
Centenary is a proud sponsor of Richmond’s Acts of Faith Theatre Festival, which is the largest faith-based theatre festival in the United States, with 15 area theatres offering over 18 shows each year. Support from area congregations is strong, with Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other faith communities participating each year.
Alex Evans, Pastor at Second Presbyterian Church, the convening sponsor of Acts of Faith, says, “It is amazing to see the energy emerging across this region within faith communities and in theater companies. As we engage one another in thoughtful and faithful efforts through this festival, our relationships grow, our faith blossoms, and our sense of community deepens. I am not sure what else in RVA crosses divides, and stimulates our hearts and minds as this unique venture between faith communities and theater.”
The festival runs from January through mid April with Richmond metropolitan theater companies offering a selection of plays with talk-back discussions after many of the performances. Using theatre as a vehicle to illuminate the issues and questions, the Festival provides conversations about the arts and faith. These post-performance conversations are intended for audience participation and include the play director, cast members, and theologians. Discussions address topics such as why the play was chosen for the festival, how cultural norms and values are portrayed in the play, and how an individual play might impact one’s faith journey. In addition to the talk-back sessions at the theatres, faith communities encourage adult and youth groups to see the plays together and continue the discussions.
Faith communities and attendees consistently say how meaningful the discussions are to their theatre experience. And they enjoy the diversity of shows that the festival presents every year, opening their understanding of what faith means. Theatres that participate in the festival also find meaning from intentionally offering stories that challenge and support their patrons spiritually. H. Lynn Smith, president of the Chamberlayne Actor’s Theatre board of directors said, "CAT always looks forward to the Festival. We like the bump in attendance and we LOVE the talk-backs with such engaged and connected audiences. It's wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss so many interfaith points of view."
Richmond’s professional theatres provide the main-stage productions for the Acts of Faith because the festival values the quality and skill that Richmond area professional dramatists offer. The faith and theatre communities agree that the success of the festival is in part due to an adherence to the artistic quality of the plays offered during the season, and the ability of the professional theatres to take risks with shows that create tension in faith. Because the Acts of Faith Festival values diversity of faith in the shows it presents, the festival accepts 3-4 non-professional theatres as Associate Theatres. These theatres offer different religious perspectives than the professional theatres alone can provide. Debra Clinton, Director of Production at SPARC and the Artistic Director of the Weinstein JCC's Jewish Family Theatre said, “Jewish Family Theatre is always honored to have the opportunity to share the unique perspective of Jewish history and culture with the larger community. Acts of Faith provides the perfect context in which to do that.”
Productions that do not meet the criteria of Professional or Associate theatres, fall into the “Fringe” category, offering opportunities for faith communities and new theatres to join in the conversation. The Acts of Faith Fringe usually includes shorter run productions and staged readings, and is the festivals effort toward supporting other events taking place in various faith communities.
Crossing religious and cultural lines, the festival provides Richmond with a venue for ecumenical conversations about faith and theatre and how they reveal our often-common beliefs while helping Richmond’s dynamic and diverse theatre community reach new audiences in a meaningful way.