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Arts & Entertainment

Third annual 2nd Best Comedy Fest to bring 30 local, national improv groups to three venues in June

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s three-day comedy festival taking place in three venues throughout Jackson Ward June 8th – 10th.

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For the third year in a row, the Richmond Comedy Coalition is bringing what’s billed as the area’s largest–and perhaps only–comedy festival, 2nd Best Comedy Fest, back to historic Jackson Ward. The laughs are coming to three venues this year, as more than 30 acts from around the country descend upon Richmond.

The festival is the brainchild of the staff and players at the Coalition Theater, a small improv theater in the Downtown Arts District that opened its doors almost exactly four years ago after a successful crowdfunding campaign. The group first formed in 2009. Executive Director Matt Newman says the concept began as a birthday party show to be held to coincide with that date, and later morphed into a full-fledged festival.

“We had thought about doing our own festival for a long time,” Newman said. As the group toured in other cities–from Toronto to Austin and everywhere in between–they knew they had to give it a go. “Going to [perform at those shows], we thought man if we did our own festival we could do this and that.” And so they did.

The first festival was held in the spring of 2015, where the folks from Coalition invited those they knew from the comedy scene–in Richmond and from other cities alike–to perform. Since then, organizers have expanded the festival to allow acts to apply to perform. Over 30 groups will take the stage when the festival returns June 8th through the 10th.

“What’s exciting to me is there are teams we’ve seen in different festivals and teams we’ve gotten to know from New York, for example, and they’re coming here to be a part of this festival,” Newman continued. “It’s been exciting to watch [the festival] grow from within, as producer, and then having the community build up around it.”

The 2nd Best Festival is also a homecoming of sorts for performers who started at the venue and went on to bigger cities or performance spaces over the years, which Newman says really makes it all worthwhile. Many have returned or will this year to perform.

“Richmond is in a particular spot,” he said. “If your goal is to really make it on SNL or in the writers room of some other comedy show, Richmond is not the place that’s going to get you seen or noticed, but i think (performers) find their passion and creative spark, their first contact with that art form (in Richmond), and wonder what else is out there–wonder where else can they take it; how far can they can go. I’m so proud of them, and we have so many talented folks right here in Richmond. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had some nice signed pictures on our wall one day.”

Three venues, one neighborhood

The festival will encompass three venues–of course the Coalition Theater at 8. W. Broad Street; TheatreLAB’s The Basement, located at 300 E. Broad Street, and Gallery 5 at 200. W. Marshall Street. All three are within a stone’s throw of each other, which will allow the festival to be highly concentrated and show off the historic nature of Jackson Ward. “We want to show off and showcase Jackson Ward and the city at large, keeping everything local and walkable,” Newman said. Each night, after parties will be held at nearby restaurants and bars, continuing the party into the night.

Who and what to check out this year

On opening night, a majority lineup of local acts–all independent of the theater–will warm up the festival. Of note is the only exception to the Richmond theme, “The Outsiderz.” A Greenville, South Carolina-based group, will host a wrestling-themed show at 9:00 PM at Coalition.

On Friday, things get hilariously weird with “I Am The Show,” a two-man show–with one human, and one machine. One visual, one audio. One responding, the other giving. The audience picks one TV show or movie, and CG improvises dialogue, sound effects, and music. The unique performance is the creative work of Chris George of Finest City Improv in San Diego, California and takes place at 7:00 PM at Coalition.

If you’ve seen the Air Sex Competition that’s come through town (ask me sometime about the night I, myself, tweeted David Arquette and convinced him to stop by and host the show at Strange Matter in 2013 and he actually showed up–weird, but true story), you’ll definitely want to check out the Trew + 2 show on Saturday night. Hosted by the man behind the Air Sex shows, Chris Trew, two people, who preferably don’t know each other and have no improv experience, are invited on stage to perform together. The show takes place at 9:00 PM on Saturday at The Basement.

Concluding the festival will be an all-star show at Gallery 5 at 11:00 PM. The largest of the three venues, the space will allow some of the best performers of the entire festival to improv together–which should be both hilarious and provide some unexpected surprises.

Jump in and participate in the fun

The festival isn’t just about shows–you can get in on the action yourself as well. There will be four workshops during the festival where curious minds can test their improv skills and have fun. Folks from teams in Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Norfolk, and right here in Richmond will lead the classes, which must be signed up for in advance. There will, however, be a drop-in class as well for those who are a little more spontaneous, Newman says.

Highlights include a sketch comedy workshop hosted by Alex Marino; and Greg Hess and Holly Laurent, the former of which grew up in Richmond and later moved to L.A., will team up to teach an improv class.

Tickets, passes, and schedule

Over 800 people attended last year’s shows, which Newman calls “humbling and exciting” for such a young festival. “We’re very young as festivals go, and we’re already seeing a lot of enthusiasm and support,” he said. Because of this, tickets go fast. Individual shows are $5 or $10; festival passes are available for $30, which includes admission to all performances.

You can view the full lineup of acts, purchase tickets, and learn more on the festival website.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.

Arts & Entertainment

Punks for Presents Tickets on Sale Now

Punk music shows that provide presents for kids in need is a truly worthy cause.

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A Richmond punk rock Christmas tradition beginning in 2005. Christmas themed punk and metal parody bands putting on shows for charity every year!

You can learn more on Instagram or Facebook. Their still looking for prize donations and sponsors. Head over to one of those social media spots and drop them a DM.

Lineup

December 9, 2022 NIGHT 1 – THE CAMEL $10 ALL AGES
https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/5838562/punks-for-presents-at-the-camel-richmond-the-camel
IMAGINARY TOYS (THE CURE)
TOY DIVISION (JOY DIVISION)
X-MAS (X)
JOLLY HOLLY (BUDDY HOLLY)

December 10, 2022 NIGHT 2 – WONDERLAND $10 21+
https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/8522910/punks-for-presents-at-wonderland-richmond-wonderland
ROCKET QUEEN (GUNS N ROSES)
SMOOCH (KISS)
MERRYDETH (MEGADETH)

December 16, 2022 NIGHT 3 – RICHMOND MUSIC HALL $10 ALL AGES
https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/2384207/punks-for-presents-at-richmond-music-hall-richmond-richmond-music-hall
YOOL (TOOL)
SNO TEMPLE PILOTS (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS)
HIGH VOLTAGE (AC/DC)
SMASHING PRESENTS (SMASHING PUMPKINS
)SNOASIS (OASIS)

December 17, 2022 NIGHT 4 – HARDYWOOD $10 ALL AGES
https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/4831118/punks-for-presents-at-hardywood-richmond-hardywood
OPERATION ICY (OPERATION IVY)
DEC.ENDENTS (DESCENDENTS)
MXPXMAS (MXPX)
SALT, SWEAT, SUGAR-COOKIES (JIMMY EAT WORLD)
RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REIN-QUEERS (THE QUEERS)
KRIS LITTLE KRINGLES (STIFF LITTLE FINGERS)

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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Arts & Entertainment

VMFA announces upcoming exhibition “Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass”

“We are thrilled to have Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass in VMFA’s collection,” said Cassel Oliver. “Frederick Douglass’ powerful orations and the innovative and captivating cinematography of Issac Julien will help visitors better understand Douglass’ legacy and the relevance to our contemporary experience.”

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) this week announced the multi-screen film installation Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass, on view at the museum in Richmond from December 10, 2022 through July 9, 2023. The installation is organized by Valerie Cassel Oliver, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

“The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is delighted to present this compelling work about Frederick Douglass, one of the most significant figures in American history,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “Through his advocacy in abolition and women’s suffrage, he called on the nation to make important reforms and embrace human rights, regardless of race or gender.”

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will present the film as an immersive ten-screen experience as envisioned by its creator, internationally renowned London-born artist and filmmaker, Sir Isaac Julien. The work is a poetic meditation on the great abolitionist and features a series of vignettes from Douglass’ life prior to and during his travel to the United Kingdom in 1841. Using arresting visuals and sound, Julien brings the historical figure to life and collapses time and space to bridge history with the persistent concerns of our day.

“We are thrilled to have Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass in VMFA’s collection,” said Cassel Oliver. “Frederick Douglass’ powerful orations and the innovative and captivating cinematography of Issac Julien will help visitors better understand Douglass’ legacy and the relevance to our contemporary experience.”

Douglass is portrayed by Shakespearean actor Ray Fearon in a series of fragmented scenes that are woven with spoken word, photography and contemporary footage to make the historic figure’s modern-day relevance and resonance undeniable. The 25-minute installation, which appears on multiple screens where images converge as a whole and then fragment into a montage, can be watched repeatedly, welcoming visitors to sit in the meditative space for a nonlinear viewing experience that makes each encounter with the work unique.

The installation also includes three tintype portraits — a collaboration between Julien and photographer Rob Ball — of the film’s subjects, Frederick Douglass, his wife Anna Murray Douglass and prominent African-American photographer J. P. Ball. Douglass was aware that words and images had powerful meaning. He used media, specifically photography, to counter the misperceptions of Black people in 19th-century America. Through a lifelong collaboration with Ball, Douglass had portraits taken of himself, portraying the Black body as noble and beautiful, and became the most photographed individual of the century.

The world premiere of the rare ten-screen film installation of Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass took place in 2019, at the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester, which commissioned the film and partnered with VMFA to acquire the work for both museums’ permanent collections.

For more information about Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass and programs related to the exhibition, visit www.VMFA.museum.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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Arts & Entertainment

Catch the Holiday Spirit at Maymont with Christmas tours, wreath workshops and a Merry Market

Check out the historic mansion decked out for the holidays, get your shopping done, and enjoy a merry good time at Maymont this holiday season.

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There’s no place like Maymont for the holidays, and something for everyone at the estate this time of year. First, starting November 18 through January 1, 2023, a special Christmas-themed audio tour will be offered at Maymont Mansion, which will be decorated for the season in Victorian style. The self-guided tour provides insights into the high pomp — and hard work — of holiday entertaining during the Gilded Age.

Second, the public is invited to create their own fresh evergreen wreaths in one of seven hands-on Wreath Workshops, Tuesday, November 29 – Saturday, December 3, under the expert guidance of Maymont staff. And a new event, Merry Market, Friday, December 2 & Saturday, December 3, celebrates winter with a two-day, pop-up holiday market of 50 local artisans, plus cozy fire pits, a festive holiday bar, live music, crafts for kids and a chance to take a selfie with Saint Nicholas.

The highlight of Merry Market is shopping for locally crafted, and imported handmade gifts in an outdoor marketplace surrounded by historic buildings draped in fresh evergreen garlands and twinkling lights on the Carriage House Lawn. Shoppers can stay fueled up with something tasty from the festive holiday bar and food vendors, and warm up around fire pits and outdoor heaters, while an a cappella vocal group and a jazz combo set the mood. Kids can make their own handmade gifts and decorations and snap a photo with Saint Nicholas.

Artisans will be selling a variety of hand-crafted accessories, décor, and housewares that make thoughtful gifts for the holidays. Among the offerings are stained glass artworks by KiYay Studios, pottery by Tana Makes, art prints by Laura Marr/FlourishRVA, fair-trade décor and accessories selected and imported by one little world, handmade jewelry by Bee is for Bead, gifts for nature lovers by Rabbit & Wren, handmade fabric products from India imported by Asha project, art by Abuelita’s, custom polymer jewelry by SassyHappy, woodworking by Southside Sawdust, plus, hand embroidery, candles, soaps, knitwear, pet treats and accessories, and much more!

“Merry Market is a chance for the community to celebrate the season with friends and neighbors in the unique historic setting at Maymont,” said Parke Richeson, Executive Director. “With live music, holiday lights, cozy fire pits, and crafts for kids, everyone will enjoy relaxing on the Carriage House Lawn along with a little holiday shopping with local small businesses and craftspeople.”

Saint Nicholas will be available for photos with the family, and children can also make their own gifts and holiday decorations at the crafts tent. A selection of food, desserts, hot coffee, cocoa, and other beverages will be available for separate purchase from food vendors, including Goatocado, The Cocky Rooster, Monique’s Crepes, Timber Pizza, and Pops Kettle Corn. The festive holiday bar will serve red wine and holiday craft beers to guests ages 21 and over.

Merry Market tickets may be purchased in advance or at the gate for $10 per person; $5 for children ages 3 – 12; and free for children ages 2 and under. Maymont members enjoy free admission. Guests who present an EBT card receive discounted tickets for $3 (on-site only) through the Museums for All program. All proceeds benefit Maymont.

Please note: Maymont will close at 4 pm on Friday, December 2, and 1 pm on Saturday, December 3, to prepare for Merry Market. Guests will enter Merry Market through the Historic Estate entrance at 1700 Hampton Street. Event parking is available at the Historic Estate parking lot and The Robins Nature Center, in addition to street parking. The Maymont Farm entrance is closed for the event. Merry Market takes place entirely outdoors, rain or shine, except in the case of severe weather. Guests are advised to wear weather-appropriate clothing and footwear suited for an outdoor lawn.

The Wreath Workshops tend to fill up in advance and include wreath supplies and refreshments, but guests are advised to bring their own snippers and gardening gloves. On Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, Wreath Workshop admission ($55 per person, $41 for members) includes admission to Merry Market. Times vary; visit the events calendar for details.

Holiday Audio Tours are $8 per person, $6 for children ages 3 – 12, and free for Maymont Members and Museums for All participants.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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