FORT LEE, Va. (June 5, 2014) -- Tucked away in a historic 350-year-old stone and brick building on the Boulevard in Colonial Heights is the nostalgic Swift Creek Mill Theatre, a.k.a. “The People’s Playhouse.”
For more than 45 years, this little gem in the community theatre market has maintained a small but loyal following … fans who are as much enamored by its “structural charm” as the off-Broadway style of entertainment it provides.
“Patrons visiting our location for the first time are typically impressed with the building itself,” said Jennifer Procise, director of development and marketing at the theatre. The floor plan includes three massive millstones that serve as a rather impressive reminder of the structure’s original purpose as a gristmill during its first 300 years.
“Of course, it’s the theater experience that keeps them coming back,” Procise said. “It’s small, and it’s intimate; we have 210 seats within the theatre, but it’s only eight rows deep with the front row being less than 5 feet away from the stage. There is not a bad seat in the house. A few may be less desirable than the others, but every one of them offers a great view of the performance area.”
The featured shows are far from shabby as well. They include gripping dramas like “Beyond the Rainbow” – showing today through Saturday at 8 p.m. – which leads the audience through the life of Judy Garland (portrayed by local actress Grey Garrett). Promoters promise “a rollercoaster of emotions” as this production takes viewers through the Hollywood starlet’s life, including her iconic role in the “Wizard of Oz” and the ups and downs of her singing career and personal life in the years that followed.
Opening June 26 is the “Dixie Swim Club,” a witty comedy about five southern ladies who relive their college years during a weekend getaway. That will be followed by another comedy, “See How They Run,” with show dates of Sept. 18 - Oct. 25. Swift Creek offers a youth theatre series as well. Upcoming performances include the Latin Ballet of Virginia, Oct. 27-31, and “Drifty’s Snow Dance,” Dec. 1-22, among others.
“In short, we are a family theatre that offers main stage and youth theatre programming,” Procise emphasized. “Most of our productions are family friendly, and we encourage young adults to enjoy shows with their parents.”
You guessed it; Swift Creek provides a meal service in addition to its theatrical offerings, which makes it an ideal choice for date nights, and family and group gatherings. The Virginia-style buffet features unorthodox favorites like southern spoon bread and pickled watermelon rind in addition to the typical meat and vegetable fare. The facility also has a full-service bar for patrons and those who rent rooms for meetings or conferences.
“We are not a typical dinner-theatre as our meal service is provided on the entry level, and the proscenium style auditorium is located on the second floor,” Procise noted. “Nonetheless, the combination of these two venues along with the rustic charm of the Mill provides a down-home experience that few, if any, will soon forget.”
Let’s talk prices … the buffet is $17 per person (tax, fountain and alcoholic drinks are not included). Tickets for main stage productions are $38, and a dinner-and-show combination is $55. A $2 processing fee is charged for each ticket purchased. A 10 percent discount is provided to active duty and retired service members, and other military affiliated personnel (ask if you qualify for a discount when making reservations.) The cost of youth theatre tickets is significantly lower due to grants and corporate sponsors. Admission to the upcoming Latin Ballet performance, for example, is $12.50 per child plus $2 for lunch if desired.
“Many parents see our location as a great entertainment opportunity for their kids on weekends and during the summer when they’re out of school,” Procise said, noting that her theatre also offers a summer camp for ages 8-15. “For couples, it’s a great date-night option, and old friends love to come here as a group and just enjoy the dinner and entertainment experience. Many patrons purchase subscription tickets and are able to enjoy several shows a year at a lower price. We offer a couple of subscription options – one being a flex pass where people can purchase 5 tickets at a time and use the tickets whenever they like.”
For additional information about tickets, shows and the history of the theater, visit www.swiftcreekmill.com.