Richmond has a Georgian Theatre! It’s very exciting. We had to take the tour, of course.
Starting with the cheap seats. These were high up and people would’ve been crammed close with chandeliers blocking some of the line of sight. Tallow candles, so very smoky and smelling gross, too.
The benches wouldn’t have had cushions, and those in the front row would have kicked the boards in front of them to register displeasure if the acts failed to entertain.
This view is from the highest priced seats: boxes in the middle level. Here there is a clear line of sight, and no danger of getting pelted with rotting fruit.
Today the boxes have chairs inside, but they would have had benches in the 1700s.
Here’s the original pay booth. There was only one door, so the person here could see exactly where people went once they’d paid. Very clever. Also, totally a bad scene in case of fire!
The boxes were all named for famous playwrights. This one is the Shakespere box, and it has its original sign. Most of the paint in the theatre is new, but it’s made to match original paint flakes, so it should be almost exactly the same color as it was 200 years ago (minus the darkening from soot).
Backstage, below stage, are special effects mechanisms! This is a special trap door with a pulley to make a person appear or disappear as if by magic. There are two still used today, and a third which was used in the past to get dead bodies off stage (since no lights went down, dead characters couldn’t walk away between scenes).
The second trap door. Closed.
The system for moving floats on stage: a trough of water with lit candles inside would rise to give light to the on stage action. Again, no wonder so many theatres burned down!
One of two dressing rooms. Modernized now, but the theatre companies would revised and memorized lines here by day, and slept here by night.
These slotted bits are for scenery flats! People would use ropes to pull them in and out of view.
The dark first panel is the original painted panel of Richmond’s crest. The mayor sits in this box even today.
A view of the pit and boxes from the stage. Very close!
Our tour guide told us there is a theatre ghost who has been spotted in the box at the end of the left side.
Full view of theatre from stage:
The little box up top was a Juliet box for things like balcony scenes.
A fire place at the back of the stage to keep people warm (and up the fire hazard ante).
Sun and clouds set, which move by pulleys.
A thunder and lightning box! If the box tilts one way or another, heavy things inside roll and rumble to the other end and then make a big clack! Sort of like a big rain stick, but noisier.
Playbills from the early 1800s!
And finally the front of the theatre as it is today:
This was a super fascinating tour. We wished we could have been here during a performance, but alas, we just missed the window. Perhaps we’ll be back one day, though!