New 2015 Events Booked!

How wonderful to be invited to participate in two fantastic Richmond events related to Early Republic Richmond! I’m in! The Wilton House Symposium and the Henley Street Theatre’s Historical Play Readings Series have asked me to join them for events in January and February of next year. Details may be found on the events page of the website or below.

Both are tremendously exciting: the Wilton Museum will be showing a newly-acquired portrait by Thomas Sully which I am eager to view. I am also looking forward to a tour of this important museum.  Henley Street Theatre will be giving readings of the two plays performed the night of the Theater Fire in 1811–this has never been done before to my knowledge, and is an amazing opportunity for Richmond history or theater history fans.

Wilton House interior


Wilton House



Wilton House Museum Symposium: Thomas Sully and Early Republic Virginia

The Wilton House Museum, Richmond, VA
February 6, 2015

In celebration of Wilton House Museum’s
Recent Acquisition. Friday, February 6, 2015   

One of America’s greatest portrait painters, Thomas Sully (1783 – 1871) spent three formative years painting in Richmond, receiving commissions from some of the Old Dominion’s most prominent citizens such as Governor Peyton Randolph (1779 – 1828) until a romance with his sister-in-law forced the artist to leave the state.  Noted speakers from across the country will present a cross-disciplinary exploration of the nineteenth-century artist and his times, a  twentieth-century collector, and twenty-first century conservation challenges.

$45 Symposium fee includes the presentations, coffee, boxed lunch, and optional tour of Wilton House Museum.


Find the program for the day-long symposium here and register at this link.



The church beautifully lit at night.

The church beautifully lit at night.

Henley Street Theatre / Richmond Shakespeare 2015 Historical Play Reading Series 

The Father, or Family Feuds by Denis Diderot and Raymond and Agnes, or The Bleeding Nun by Matthew Gregory

Presented on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 7pm at Monumental Church.

Scandals and Tragedies: Theatre in the Headlines of History

Join us for this thrilling new series of four captivating and entertaining plays rooted in the history of Richmond, the U.S., and the world – from 9/11, to the Richmond theatre fire, to late 19th century riots in Paris, to Lincoln’s assassination! We’ll have RVA’s finest directors and actors bringing these rarely-produced gems alive on our stage, joined by some of the area’s most respected scholars and theatre artists for lively and illuminating talkbacks following each production. As a historian of Early Republic Richmond and the Richmond Theater fire, Meredith Henne Baker will be part of the panel following this performance.

The Father, or Family Feuds by Denis Diderot and Raymond and Agnes, or The Bleeding Nun by Matthew Gregory Lewis. On December 26th, 1811, an excited crowd of theatergoers had packed themselves into the Richmond Theatre to see a double bill of a play and a pantomime. The play was The Father, or Family Feuds, a translation from French comedy by Diderot, about a young nobleman who falls in love with a poor girl. His family threatens to send her to a convent—and much hilarity ensues. The pantomime that followed it was Raymond and Agnes, or The Bleeding Nun—a Gothic story of the Bleeding Nun who haunts the castle of Lindberg.

On that fateful night, 518 adults and 80 children were enjoying the performance in the Richmond Theatre on Broad Street, when a chandelier in the theatre started a fire. The flames were fed by the hanging drops on the stage and soon roared out of control. The audience panicked and stampeded the doors. 72 died in the fire: 54 women and 18 men, including Governor George William Smith, and former Senator Abraham Venable. It was the worst urban disaster of all time in the country.

We will present our reading at the Monumental Church, which was built on the grounds of the theatre as a memorial to commemorate the 72 people who died on the site.

Tickets may be purchased here.