jakub | August 19, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | Virginia Rep Removes Co-Founding Managing Director


Phil Whiteway. (Photo by Clement Britt)

RICHMOND, V.A.: The Virginia Repertory Theatre board of directors voted to remove Phil Whiteway from his longtime post as managing director in a meeting on Aug. 9, according to Style Weekly. The theatre announced the decision in a press release earlier this week, stating that “Virginia Repertory Theatre and managing director Phil Whiteway have parted ways.”

“We thank Phil for all of his contributions to Virginia Rep and the entire Richmond theatre community,” the board continued in their statement, “and Virginia Rep will continue to recognize him as co-founder of the organization, and for his contributions over his long career.”

Virginia Rep’s board said that it plans to launch a national executive search for a new managing director, is meeting weekly with the staff leadership team, and is supporting them as they fulfill the managing director’s duties until an interim leader is named.

Phil Whiteway and Bruce Miller. (Photo by Mark Gormus, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Style Weekly further reported that when contacted, Whiteway referred questions to legal counsel, and that members of the law firm Butler Curwood “are engaged in discussion with folks at Virginia Repertory Theatre” and “will make [a statement] when appropriate.”

Attorney Harris Butler confirmed to American Theatre that he is representing Mr. Whiteway in regard to a dispute involving the theatre. The firm specializes in “matters related to employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, overtime, retaliation and whistleblower claims.” When reached for comment, Virginia Repertory Theatre staff told American Theatre that there was nothing further to add at this time.

Whiteway founded Theatre IV, Virginia’s first professional theatre for young audiences, with former artistic director Bruce Miller in 1975. The theatre’s work focused on the arts, education, children’s health and safety, and community leadership. Theatre IV produced several educational plays designed to address social issues including Hugs and Kisses, Virginia’s principal child sexual abuse prevention program, Runners, a landmark delinquency prevention program based on interviews with runaways living in Virginia’s halfway houses and emergency shelters, and Do Lord Remember Me, based on the oral histories of former enslaved people interviewed during the Federal Writer’s Project.

Theatre IV became the first professional theatre in the nation to perform at the Pentagon with its 2002 production of Buffalo Soldier. In 1999, Style Weekly selected Miller and Whiteway as two of the “100 Most Influential Richmonders of the 20th Century.” Theatre IV eventually merged with Barksdale Theatre to become Virginia Repertory Theatre in July 2012. Virginia Rep celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, as Barksdale Theatre was originally founded in 1953.

Miller stepped down as artistic director in 2016 and was succeeded by Nathaniel Shaw, whose tenure lasted until 2020. Virginia Rep then adopted a tripartite artistic leadership model, with Desirée Roots made artistic director of community in Fall 2021, followed by the appointments of artistic director of education Todd D. Norris and artistic director of programming Rick Hammerly in Spring 2022.

In October 2022, Virginia Rep also purchased the Scottish Rite Temple in Richmond’s Hermitage Road Historic District for $3.5 million, which became the Center for Arts and Education, a new home for the theatre’s children’s programming.

Virginia Repertory Theatre is a regional professional theatre company headquartered in downtown Richmond and is one of the largest performing arts organizations in Central Virginia, with four venues and an educational touring arm. Virginia Rep seeks to entertain, challenge, and uplift its communities through the power of live theatre. As of 2022, Virginia Repertory Theatre had an approximate budget of $4.6 million.

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