Getting In On The Ground Floor

One of Richmond’s most inspiring and heartwarming success stories in recent years has been the national recognition of musician Lucy Dacus. Five years ago she was a student at Maggie Walker Governor’s School and singing in the ensemble for shows like Virginia Rep’s SPRING AWAKENING. Since her national exposure, she’s played big gigs like South by Southwest, headlined tours both in the US and internationally, and has music mavens eagerly awaiting her new album, due out in March.

I’ve heard many (and told a few) “I saw her back then…” stories. People love thinking they were exposed to the raw in-process stuff of genius back when it was still unrecognized by the bigger world. That’s certainly true for me: I treasure fading memories of an up-close, in-my-face U2 performance in a small North Carolina club in the 80s years before it would cost hundreds of dollars to see them from the nosebleeds at the

Meadowlands. There are still Richmonders around who saw Jason Mraz in SPARC’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 25 years ago and you know they remember that production fondly.

What’s so surprising then, is that it’s so hard to get people to check out new stuff. I thought about that this past Friday, checking out the new band Deau Eyes at Gallery5. It’s fronted by another former theater kid, RTCC award-winner Ali Thibodeau, who has a muscular, soaring voice and a new bevy of strong songs she’ll be showcasing at TheatreLAB later this month.

No one can know whether Deau Eyes will become a hot new thing but it was exciting to be there and see the potential. At the end of their set, I could totally imagine reading about Ali in Spin in a few months or hearing her do a tiny desk concert on NPR this summer (I’m hoping writing that out loud won’t jinx them...sorry guys!)

Much of this wayward thought has been instigated by the new opera, TO DAMASCUS, that Firehouse is opening on January 19th. It’s a world premiere composed by Richmond native and musical prodigy, Walter Braxton. As director Joel Bassin explains in our latest podcast, it’s a challenging new work that is still being discovered and coming together as the rehearsal process continues. No one knows exactly what it’s going to be when it finally opens in front of an audience and that’s at least part of the excitement of it.

No one knows whether TO DAMASCUS will go on and have a life beyond its Richmond premiere. Any new work involves rolling the dice to some extent. But, if New York audiences are debating its merits in a few years, imagine being one of the few and proud who was there at the beginning?

There is a long-standing concept in the financial world of “getting in on the ground floor,” people investing in a company when it’s still just a seed of an idea then being able to revel in the benefits when that idea blossoms and takes off. There’s often significant monetary risk involved in that kind of venture. The great thing about getting in on the ground floor of TO DAMASCUS or any new work being developed on Richmond stages is that it involves a relatively small investment of time. And the rewards -- memories of being there at the beginning -- are pretty much priceless.

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