In 2021, the highest grossing films were F9: The Fast Saga, Black Widow, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Spider-Man: No Way Home (Spider-Man being the highest grossing, with more than double the gross of the Shang-Chi in second place). What do all of these films have in common? All five are franchise films, the top four all owned by Disney. Many fans of film and entertainment are disappointed by the extensive saturation of franchises and sequels in the theatres. With the film industry so dominated by these franchises, where can we turn for more original, ambitious, and innovative content?
Look no further than Fredericksburg Theatre Ensemble. Located on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg, this ever-growing theatre places an emphasis on edgy, thought-provoking productions. “The audience always needs to leave thinking about what they just saw,” Christopher Stewart, artistic director of FTE, said. “Come always with an open mind, and expect to leave having a mirror put in your face as an audience member.”
Stewart recently celebrated his first full year as artistic director. It was in one of his first shows for FTE, Equus, that he began to work with his stage manager, Scott Allan. Allan, who has since become the executive director of FTE, has made his goal to put on “Live, quality, good theatre in Fredericksburg.” He hopes FTE will become a theatre that audiences both want and plan to go to.
FTE most recently put on the Tony-winning play The Goat (Or Who Is Sylvia?) by Edward Albee, and were exceedingly pleased with the result of their production. Stewart, who chose the entire 2022 season of plays, is excited for the productions to come this year. Every play is held during the last two weekends of each month, from Friday to Sunday. Their play this April is The Glass Menagerie by Tennesee Williams, followed by Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang this May. They will also be hosting a number of other events this year, including Voices & Vines (a wine-show cabaret in partnership with City Vino) and a New Years Eve party. This June, in addition to the play The Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane, FTE will be performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of their Shakespeare Series at Historic Kenmore.
“I consider us a collective of artists,” Stewart said. While FTE is 100% volunteer-based, they have developed a committed pool of participants, from bartenders to actors (most of whom have professional credits in theatre). Allan noted that their cast and crew have been extraordinary, including production manager Melissa Hennessey. Hennessey, who both Allan and Stewart touted as the backbone of FTE, is in charge of coordinating volunteers, stocking the bar (for which they have local beer on tap), designing costumes, and even directing a new show. According to Allan, she is just an example of their many committed volunteers.
FTE is also always looking for sponsorships and partnerships, particularly with local businesses. Whether they be breweries, restaurants, or galleries, FTE would love to form partnerships to spread the word and awareness of both their theatre and local businesses. Allan and Stewart believe these partnerships will help establish Fredericksburg as a destination, and hope to drive an outside audience to their theatre and neighboring businesses. Allan and Stewart are excited for the next steps of FTE, as they are always looking to step up a notch with each production. And as they continue to build their reputation, Stewart believes their goal to make Fredericksburg a destination will come true.
“Come see stuff in Fredericksburg that you wouldn’t expect to come see in Fredericksburg,” he said.
If you would like to be involved in Fredericksburg Theatre Ensemble, whether it be as a volunteer, sponsor, partner, or actor, email Christopher Stewart at email@example.com. You can follow them on Facebook.
NOTE: Plays produced by Fredericksburg Theatre Ensemble are intended for a mature audience. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.