Plum Street Boys
Affectionately known as the Plum Street Boys, or simply the Boys, Robert Watkins and deVeaux Riddick are creative geniuses who have been together – on stage and off – for over fifty years.
Farrar: Over the past year, commentator Brooks Smith has explored Richmond’s performing arts history, and though he recently has transitioned to a new theme, the performing arts stories keep coming, right, Brooks?
Smith: That’s right, it seems like one story always leads to another and then another. At some point there’s a convergence of people and places, that, though they may span several centuries, all deserve to be remembered and celebrated.
Farrar: So, back to the performing arts for this time, and what’s on tap today?
Smith: You know, one of the stories I covered last year was about a little teensy tiny Greenwich Village on Plum Street. Formed back in the 30’s around Jon Powell and George Harris. Little did I know then that their vision of an arts colony right here in the Fan district persists, with two latter-day stage icons who live just down the block.
Farrar: Well, um, who are those Plum Street boys?
Smith: Affectionately known as “Just the Boys”, Robert Watkins and deVeaux Riddick are creative geniuses, who have been together both on stage and off for over 50 years. They’ve been catalysts behind so many stage and design experiments and triumphs in our fair city.
Farrar: Name some of them.
Smith: Well, a few. They started the first Modern Design shop in Richmond, way back in 1952. They helped form the Richmond Ballet, as it’s now known, in the 50’s. They then broke off and formed the Concert Ballet of Virginia in 1976. Almost a decade later the theater at the Bolling Haxall House in 1985. And, lest I forget, not one, not twenty, but 53 consecutive years of the Bal du Bois, the signature debutante ball benefitting Sheltering Arms.
Farrar: I understand a celebration is in the works for the boys. Tell us about that.
Smith: That’s right. These are two, remarkable, gentle men, by which I mean to emphasize gentle. It seems they’ve given over their entire lives to enriching our community through theater and dance. Just a day from now Robert and deVeaux will be celebrated for their contributions during an evening of staged readings of love scenes at the Bolling Haxall House. Among the readings, I think, will be some from Twain’s Diaries of Adam and Eve, which was an irreverent portrait of a love that does not simply survive but prevails. And I can’t think of a more fitting association for the boys.
Farrar: Well, I’m sure many a theatre-goer has seen and enjoyed their work over the years, perhaps not always familiar with their names, but it certainly fitting that they be celebrated at this event Friday night. Any final thoughts?
Smith: You know, I had the great privilege to meet the boys a week or so ago, and as we said our farewells, one of them joked to me that “a little theatre is a dangerous thing.” To which I might add, from my experience with them, it was also a very beautiful thing.
Farrar: Okay. Thanks to commentator Brooks Smith, Rediscovering Richmond.