Coleman takes plays to schools

Published 10:19 pm Friday, August 21, 2015

A Suffolk resident is responsible for an upcoming season of in-school touring shows with the Virginia Stage Company that are free to the schools where they will be performed.

Tommy Coleman admires the view from the audience at the Wells Theater in Norfolk. The Suffolk resident is a teaching artist with the Virginia Stage Company.

Tommy Coleman admires the view from the audience at the Wells Theater in Norfolk. The Suffolk resident is a teaching artist with the Virginia Stage Company.

Tommy Coleman is a teaching artist and director of the urban theater program at the Virginia Stage Company, which is based at Norfolk’s Wells Theater. He is a Norfolk native and current resident of Hillpoint.

“I always knew I wanted to do something here,” he said. “I really, really wanted to be a part of Virginia Stage Company. I feel like there’s so much potential for me here.”

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It’s high praise, coming from someone who has major performance credentials in London and Scotland.

After attending Temple University, Coleman earned his master’s degree in musical theater performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He then lived about three years in London and performed multiple roles at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

One of Coleman’s credits at the Globe was “The Lightning Child,” during which he believes he became the youngest black male to play a title role at the Globe.

Coleman calls the role of Dionysus his favorite.

“It was life-changing for me because of what it represented for me as a whole,” he said. Calling his character the god of wine and excess, Coleman said Dionysus is “an advocate for being weird and owning your weirdness. In a way, it’s about embracing all the good of you, all the bad of you, and everything is OK.”

Coleman said the touring shows are free to schools this year thanks to a grant from Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. He enjoys going to student shows because he likes when children say they understand the world better through the art of performance.

“It’s really important,” he said, recalling his own experiences as a child watching actors. “I remember always wanting to perform. I noticed these people who were in front of others who caused a change, who made people feel something.”

The urban theater program works with at-risk youth to “inspire students to find their own creative and artistic voice,” Coleman added.

In addition to his work with young people, Coleman also might be seen in one or two of the Virginia Stage Company’s regular productions this year. They include “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a re-imagined story of Peter Pan; Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” the Tony Award winning play about family dynamics, courage and the struggle to survive during World War II; “A Christmas Carol,” which has become a holiday tradition for the company; “The Hampton Years,” the original play based on a true story of a Jewish World War II refugee mentoring students at Hampton University; “Grounded,” a one-woman play about the shift in American warfare as drones take over the battlefield; and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” a special two-day event next April at Chrysler Hall, where the company will be joined by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Virginia Symphony Chorus.

More information on the company is available at