Barksdale Theatre History
On August 1st, 1953, six actors from New York bought Hanover Tavern. They founded Barksdale Theatre, the nation’s first dinner theatre, which they named after a deceased college friend. They raised their families upstairs, performed downstairs, and served hearty meals in the historic rooms that fell between.
During the first six years, Pete and Nancy Kilgore along with Muriel McAuley produced Greater Richmond’s first professional productions of plays by the likes of Tennessee Williams, George Bernard Shaw, and Thornton Wilder.
In defiance of Jim Crow laws, Barksdale was Virginia’s first performing arts organization to open its doors to integrated audiences. Later, in 1973, Barksdale produced Virginia’s first professional play based on the African American experience, Lorraine Hansberry’s To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
In 1990 Barksdale Theatre sold the building to Hanover Tavern Foundation after it had become difficult for them to maintain the old building. Once the restoration of the Tavern was done by the Foundation, Barksdale returned to their original home.
Barksdale brought Hanover Tavern alive after many years of stagnation. Their lively plays invigorated the community and the memories of those wonderful times live in the hearts and minds of those folks who were part of a great and unique history.
Barksdale Theatre, now Virginia Repertory Theatre, offers a varied selection of plays each year at the restored Tavern.
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