September 20, 2011

Events & Appearances

Please contact Erin Rolfs at LSU Press (225-578-8282) or Meredith (meredith @ theaterfirebook. com) if you are interested in arranging an event. 

August 22, 2015 – Richmond Theater Fire Lecture
Washington, DC

If you are an adult, chances are that you can recall a tragic news story in your lifetime that you are not likely to ever forget. For many in the early republic, that news item was the Richmond Theater Fire. The December 26, 1811 tragedy claimed the lives of over 70 men, women, and children–including the Governor of Virginia–and yet few are aware that it even happened today. Join us at historic Christ Church in Washington, DC to hear Meredith Henne Baker, author of the award-winning book, The Richmond Theater Fire: Early America’s First Great Disaster, tell us the stories of tragedy and heroism of this often overlooked event. 2:30pm at 620 G St SE, Washington DC. Parking available in the rear of the church.


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.

Previous events

Literary Hill Bookfest
Eastern Market, North Hall
Capitol Hill, Washington DC
May 5th, 2013
11-3pm, free!

The BookFest gives local residents a chance to learn more about their talented neighbors and draws visitors from all over the city for a taste of the literary richness of Capitol Hill. Please stop by to chat with the writers, buy their books, and support the arts in our community.

American Association of University Women
Washington, D.C. Chapter
September 14, 2013

Virginia Historical Society Banner Lecture

courtesy the Library of Virginia

The Virginia Historical Society
Richmond, VA
Thursday, December 6th, 2012

I’m so pleased to have been invited to give a Banner Lecture at the VHS! Previous lecturers include distinguished historians such as Simon Schama, Lorena Walsh, Rhys Isaac, Marie Tyler-McGraw, Helen Rountree, Thomas E. Buckley, S.J. and Ira Berlin.  There will be a booksigning in the museum shop immediately following the event. The lecture is posted on the VHS website, so those who miss the actual lecture in Richmond will still be able to see it. The audio file may be streamed and listened to here. See the blurb about my lecture on here.

me with Harry Kollatz, who dramatically reenacts the story of the fire in a fantastic solo performance

Court End Christmas
Richmond, Virginia
Sunday, December 9th, 2012 (12-5pm)

The Historic Richmond Foundation will again be hosting Meredith at Monumental Church during Court End Christmas for a book talk and a book signing. Court End Christmas is a festive event that gives visitors an opportunity to tour many of Richmond’s most interesting historic sites–for free!


Court End Christmas
Richmond, Virginia
Sunday, December 11th, 2011 (12-5pm)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Court End Christmas, with several historic downtown sites hosting free visitation with tours, living history and reenactments, children’s activities, refreshments, carriage rides, music, and special guest appearances. Participating sites include the Valentine Richmond History Center and Wickham House, the John Marshall House, St. John’s Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Museum and White House of the Confederacy, Monumental Church, the Egyptian Building, the Beers House, and the Virginia State Capitol.

As part of the Court End celebration, Monumental Church will be commemorating the 200th anniversary of the site of the Richmond Theatre fire with performances by Harry Kollatz, Jr., St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Choir and an Eliza Poe reenactor.  Author Meredith Henne Baker will share excerpts from her new book, The Richmond Theater Fire:  Early America’s First Great Disaster.  Please join us between the hours of 12:00 – 5:00 p.m. for this special Christmas event. **Blog post about this event may be found here.**

Historic Richmond Foundation 2012 Winter Lecture Series
St. Catherine’s School
Richmond, VA
6-8pm/Thursday, February 23, 2012
Dinner and lecture, $30 per individual ticket.

In a three-part winter series focusing on Monumental Church, built in memory of the 1811 Richmond Theater Fire victims, Meredith will speak in February about the controversies in the church’s early years and relay her findings about the intriguing personalities who founded (and argued over) Monumental Church. Please consider attending the January and February events as well–they look fascinating! Tickets are available for order here. **Blog Post summary of this event can be found here.**

Author Talk at the Library of Virginia
Library of Virginia
Richmond, VA
March 15th, 2012
12-1pm, free admission!

Come and hear Meredith tell about the writing of her Richmond Theater fire book and share some little-known stories about the Theater disaster. This will be a lunchtime talk in downtown Richmond (bonus: free parking in the garage under the library). Book signing to follow at the Library’s Virginia Shop. More information can be found on this LVA page. **If you’d like to read a summary of this event and a sell-out crowd of attendees, please check out my blog post.**

Book Talk: Adult Forum at Christ Church of Washington
April 15, 2012
time tbd

Christ Church on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. was built in 1794 and is the oldest Episcopal Church in the Washington Parish. Meredith will be speaking there about the radical changes in the Episcopal Church of Virginia that occurred after the Richmond Theater fire. All are welcome to participate in the forum or attend one of the Sunday services (9am or 11am).


VCU Barnes & Noble Bookstore–Book Signing
1111 West Broad Street
Richmond,  VA 23284
Friday, April 20th, 2012

From 3-5:30pm Meredith will be signing copies of The Richmond Theater Fire. Come for a book or drop in to chat and browse around! They’re setting up a table for me in the general reading area. Parking is available above the bookstore (yes, that’s right) for about $5, or you can find a neighborhood spot.


Literary Hill Bookfest
Eastern Market, North Hall
Capitol Hill, Washington DC
May 6th, 2012

Lured by the deep holdings of the Library of Congress, attracted by the potent political atmosphere—or simply enchanted by the charms of the surrounding community—many established and aspiring writers have taken up residence here.
Since 2001, Karen Lyon has been writing a monthly Hill Rag column, The Literary Hill, about the writers, books, and literary events on the Hill. The Literary Hill BookFest has evolved (with much encouragement from fellow writer Maggie Hall) as a way of sharing more than a decade’s worth of knowledge, contacts, and passion for the Hill and its writers.
Now in its second year, the BookFest gives local residents a chance to learn more about their talented neighbors and draws visitors from all over the city for a taste of the literary richness of Capitol Hill. Please stop by to chat with the writers, buy their books, and support the arts in our community. **Blog Post about this event here, here (with photos!), and here.**

 Radio Interview with WFLO
Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

WFLO will be interviewing Meredith live on the “Call Flo” morning radio show. This popular station out of Farmville, VA (home to Hampden-Sydney College and Longwood College) has an award-winning morning show that regularly interviews authors who write about Virginia. MP3 available here!

Kirby Center Dinner & Roundtable
Hillsdale College Alumni Association of Greater Washington DC
Thursday, August 2nd, 6:30-8pm

“The Alumni Association of Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Kirby Center, is hosting an Alumni Roundtable next Thursday, August 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kirby Center.   Featuring several notable Hillsdale alumni who live and work in D.C.,  this event will allow the College’s summer WHIP students to learn from  the alumni’s experiences  and stories about the nexus of principles, politics, and post-Hillsdale life in the D.C. metro area.” Meredith will be speaking about her research and writing as well as her work in the field of education. Event open to Hillsdale College alumni. RSVP at or call (202) 600-7300.

Congressional Cemetery Book Festival
Congressional Cemetery, Capitol Hill, Washington DC
Saturday, August 11th, 3:30-6:30

What, you’ve never been to a book event in a cemetery? Well, this is no ordinary cemetery. It’s 35 historic acres on Capitol Hill in the nation’s capital, and some of the 55,000 who have been interred there include J. Edgar Hoover, 90 congressmen, Robert Mills (architect of Monumental Church…and the Washington Monument), and John Philip Sousa. There are also intriguing memorials to various disasters, a charming little chapel, and cenotaphs by Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

Kids and dogs welcome. Stroll around, take in the history, discover some interesting books. I promise the authors will be willing to sign and ready to chat. This may well be your most unusual and memorable summer evening of 2012! More information about the Congressional Cemetery here.