Artistic Director Robert Paine

Virago Theatre Company Mission & History


Virago Theatre Company is dedicated to providing an artistic home to progressive and diverse San Francisco Bay Area playwrights through workshops, readings, and full productions in the Bay Area and beyond. We work in partnership with artists and theaters both locally and nationally in order to present courageous viewpoints, to entertain, and to inspire. 

Founded in 2005 by Laura and Robert Lundy-Paine, Angela Dant, Eileen Meredith and Bruce Lundy, Virago Theatre Company set out to become the first professional theatre company centered in Alameda.  Virago’s founders dedicated themselves to giving the community of Alameda something it could only find in San Francisco and Berkeley – ambitious, provocative, and passionate professional theatre in its own back yard.  Virago’s first production was Threepenny Opera in early 2006, which was an immediate hit, selling out its run at MONART School of the Arts. Threepenny was so popular, Virago re-mounted the show for a crowd of 100 at Alameda’s Masonic Hall.  Staying true to its mission of developing works by local playwrights, the summer of 2006 saw Virago’s first New Play Reading Series, which helped us find works that would be fully produced by Virago in future seasons. 

​Virago Theatre Company incorporated in June 2007, and our first production of the 2007-2008 season coincided with the opening of a new arts center in Alameda, Rhythmix Cultural Works.  Virago became the first theater to perform a full production in the space. We performed a double-feature of one-act plays found during our 2006 staged reading series ;  The Death of Ayn Rand by John Byrd, and A Bed of My Own by Robert Hamm.  The company is committed to supporting new works and a collaborative rehearsal process, so directors and casts worked closely with both playwrights through conceptualizing, casting, rehearsing and staging these vibrant works. 

​In the fall of 2007 Alameda and East Bay audiences saw Virago’s most ambitious work to date. Mankind’s Last Hope, a post-apocalyptic workplace situation comedy set 50 years in the future, was realized through a tremendous cast and technical crew, including director Robert Lundy-Paine, Alameda playwright Dan Brodnitz, costume designer Lorene Eggett (also an Alamedan), and skilled make-up coordinators. Many thought this production, originally written as a situation comedy for a television audience, couldn’t be pulled off as a theatrical production – our audiences and theatre critics disagreed, and hailed it as inventive and hilarious. 

​Virago’s next production at Rhythmix Cultural Works, was the John Caird version of the Leonard Bernstein savage comic opera Candide in February 2008.  Candide was directed by Laura Lundy-Paine with Musical Direction by David Manley and Choreography by Lisa Bush Finn.  Where Mankind’s Last Hope was technically ambitious,Candide was the most ambitious in terms of sheer size, with a cast of 17 playing nearly 60 roles in scenes that take place in 20 different settings, and a live pit band of five musicians.  Virago Theatre Company once again had a nearly sold out run, proving that Alameda was ready and hungry for the kind of provocative, ambitious, edgy theater we provide. 

Our 2008-2009 season began in July 2008 with our second staged reading series of new works called Visions and Voices: 2008 New Play Reading Series.  After reviewing over 60 script submissions, Virago chose three full-length plays and two one-acts for performance – Death in Van Nuys by Dan Pine, The Afterlife of the Mind by William Bivins, Shoot O’Malley Twice by Jon Brooks, and the one-acts The Edge and The Scratch, by Morgan Ludlow, andAn Hour in Time, by VB Leghorn.  Over four weekends, Virago staged these readings at different venues around Alameda, including Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden, Frank Bette Center for the Arts, and Crosstown Community Center.  

​In the fall of 2008, Virago welcomed guest director, Rachel LePell, who directed Dream of a Common Language at Rhythmix Cultural Works, our fourth production there.  It was an exciting collaboration, and we look forward to working with Rachel again in the future.  The production contained male and female nudity, and was hailed as being “the most daring production to hit Alameda since the days of the Gold Rush.”  

​In the summer of 2008, Virago began an actor’s training program for children and adults called The Theatre Conservatory. The training is rigorous and multi-disciplined, offering classes in acting, stage combat, voice, movement, and acting Shakespeare. All instructors are professional working performers. Classes are offered throughout the year at various school campuses in Alameda. 

​Virago has become known as THE theater where new plays and musicals are produced. Virago produced Robert Hamm’s A Bed of My Own (2007), John Byrd’s The Death of Ayn Rand (2007) and The Hermit Bird (2009), Dan Brodnitz and Jeff Green’s Mankind’s Last Hope (2007), William Bivins’ The Afterlife of the Mind (2009), the smash San Francisco hit,Zombie Vixens from Hell-The Musical!(2012) by John Byrd, and in Fall of 2013, George Pfirrmann's daring comedy about a Ukrainian prostitute and a virgin with Aspergers, AROUSAL. AROUSAL, paired with Harold Pinter's The Lover went to Los Angeles (Theatre Asylum) and New York (The Flea Theater, July 2014). Dennis Chowenhill, Virago Resident Dramaturg, directs the New Play Reading Series. 

​Virago is equally well-known for our operas, earning audience and critic raves for productions of La Boheme, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, and Don Giovanni. Our exciting 2014 production of Il Trovatore brings together a superb team, with Director Ellen St. Thomas, Conductor Maestro Robert Ashens, and set designer Jean-Francois Revon creating magic for Virago. In Winter of 2014 Virago Co-Founder Eileen Meredith formed her own opera company, Island City Opera.

As Virago Theatre Company moves forward, we prepare to celebrate our 10th anniversary with exciting new collaborations at The Flight Deck in Oakland, Tides Theatre in San Francisco, Theatre Asylum in Los Angeles and The Flea in New York. Please join our mailing list so we can keep you in the loop!