Look closely and you can find small tunnels carved inches beneath each aisle at Virginia Rep’s November Theatre. There was a time when large blocks of ice were placed under the stage at the mouth of these tunnels, and powerful electric fans blew across the ice. The year was 1911, and the chilled breeze coming up through the floor vents situated near each aisle made this Broad Street landmark the first “air- conditioned” theater in RVA.
Big ideas are nothing new for Virginia Rep’s November Theatre.
Formerly known as The Empire, this historic stage has played host to national stars who divided their time between Richmond, New York, and Hollywood. On March 28, the theater will have a new set of stars taking the stage—a diverse group of storytellers and change makers
This time the ideas are getting even bigger.
TEDxRVA is a full day of live talks by thinkers, makers, and doers. Their goal is to present “ideas worth spreading” at the independently organized TED event. Now in its second year, the TEDxRVA organizers are moving the conversation forward as evidenced by an impressive lineup at the November Theatre. This year’s event, which is being called TEDxRVA: re___ promises to engage, provoke, and inspire.
“re___ is more than a theme,” explains Andy Stefanovich, TEDxRVA curator. “It’s an invitation, an action.” Stefanovich says that TEDxRVA wants Richmonders to lean in and bridge the gap, as re___ leaves a space for you to add your voice to the conversation.
“Reconsider, re-imagine, react, repair, realize … there is no one word that can capture the future of our community, so we’re leaving it open to interpretation,” says Stefanovich. Behind the mic at the November Theatre, an eclectic list of speakers plan to show RVA a new definition of re___.
Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, founder and artistic director of The Conciliation Project, is one of the speakers who will be sharing her experiences with the crowd. Known as “Dr. T,” Pettiford-Wates is celebrated for her commitment to diversity as well as her contributions to cross-cultural relations. At The Conciliation Project, Dr. T uses ritual poetic drama as the methodology for creating plays that promote open and honest dialogue about racism.
“I’m looking forward to a gathering of folks who are truly interested in thinking outside of the box, disruptive innovation, and hearing new ideas or old ideas in new ways,” says Dr. T. “I am interested in moving the Richmond community forward. There is so much potential here and I believe that the time is now … we must have the hard conversations about our city and the long-held historic divisions about how we heal and begin to come together from various sides, different histories, diverse communities; and build our RVA together.”
Dr. Danny Avula, deputy director of the Richmond City Health Department, will also share the stage at TEDxRVA: re___. In addition to his role as a preventive medicine physician, Avula is a board-certified pediatrician and has earned a reputation for helping to improve community health centers in public housing developments.
“It’s really exciting that TEDxRVA is bringing together so many unique people with so many unique perspectives, many who live here in Richmond and who care deeply about our city,” says Avula, a Church Hill resident who regularly offers his home to people in need. “My hope is that the ideas that are shared here are not just entertainment for a day, but that they spur our community to engage in real conversation, in courageous conversation, about how to move our city forward.”
Amy Black, a Richmond-based tattoo artist, will also share her ideas at TEDxRVA. With a devoted following from around the country, Black has racked up an impressive list of awards in recent years. Black, who is an expert in nipple and areola repigmentation, has used tattooing as an important part of breast reconstruction.
“Richmond has helped me cultivate my art form and supported me immensely,” explains Black. “In recent years I am able to use it in more critical ways than I ever imagined possible-to aid in the healing journey of patients post mastectomy from breast cancer or BRCA diagnosis as a part of their breast reconstruction.” Black says that her TEDxRVA presentation will emphasize the importance of art and its ability to heal.
Matching the passion of the speakers on the stage, the organizers of TEDxRVA wrangled together an equally dedicated lineup of volunteers who have worked off the stage in the months leading up to the event. Along with volunteers, local businesses, such as Capitol One, Owens & Minor, Venture Richmond, and more, stepped up to make the TEDxRVA event happen through sponsorships. Many local businesses also donated their talent and elbow grease, with Blanchard’s Roasting Co. pouring a collaboration coffee with Grid magazine, Worth Higgins assisting with printing, and Release the Hounds bringing the creative experience to life at the event.
For those unable to make the live event at the Virginia Rep’s November Theatre, many local organizations are hosting viewing parties via livestream. Among the range of locations, Richmonders can watch the live presentations at The Community Foundation, Richmond Public Library—Main Branch, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, and more. For a complete list of viewing parties, visit TEDxRVA.com.