Tom Width of Swift Creek Mill Theatre

By Roger Bean | March 7th, 2014

Boomer ask Tom Width about new show, "Life Could Be a Dream".

Swift Creek Mill Theatre, in South Chesterfield, will be presenting Life Could Be a Dream March 8 to April 19. It is Roger Bean’s long-running doo-wop musical about a group of boys rehearsing for the Dream of a Lifetime Talent Search.

Only their dream of making it big-time becomes a challenge, as romantic entanglements derail their objective. Their ’60s doo-wop songs say it all: “Fools Fall in Love,” “Earth Angel,” “Runaround Sue,” “Unchained Melody,” “The Glory of Love,” and 17 more hits.

Five Questions for the Director: Tom Width of Swift Creek Mill Theatre on Life Could Be a Dream

1) What can people expect from the now-playing Life Could Be a Dream? It is solely for the musical lovers?

It surely is for music lovers, but certainly for nostalgia lovers, as well. The dancing and the humor of the period (late ’50s – early ’60s) are on full display in this production. The setting, a basement rec room, also elicits many fond memories … and it’s full of period furnishings and period props, as well.

2) Is this performance a challenge following the theatre’s immense success of The Miracle Worker, the drama about the early-life challenges of Helen Keller which the theatre recently performed so delightfully well?

It’s really apples and oranges. We are quite accustomed to doing productions that cover a wide array of styles and genres. We love doing period dramas like The Miracle Worker, but we love doing lightweight, “entertainment” productions, too. We hope that our subscribers appreciate the fact that we try to provide a lot of diversity in each season.

 3) You performed in The Miracle Worker as well as directed it, correct? What was that like? And is it better than only directing because the process is a bit more democratic in nature when you do both simultaneously? Also, does doing one — acting or directing — help you improve at the other?

I do very little acting nowadays; but I have played Captain Keller in all four of our Miracle Worker productions over the last 20 years. I came to the Mill as the Resident Actor in 1976, and was never off the stage for the next five years. But directing is a different challenge, and I enjoy it more because I’m in charge of the big picture. You’ve heard the saying “a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient”? I feel the same way about the director who directs himself, but I make an exception with “Miracle Worker” because I am so familiar with the piece … and I know what it’s like from both perspectives.

4) Are there any other classics (or even more contemporary works) the theatre is considering performing next year and beyond? Any Chekhov, Tennessee or Wilde by chance? 

Shows like Of Mice and Men, The Diary of Anne Frank, Flowers for Algernon and Little Women have all been in our repertoire, and have been very popular with our audiences. Next season, we’ll be doing a world-premiere musical that we’re developing here, and well as repeating two shows that had their world-premieres at our theatre within the past decade. We are always looking for new projects as well as reviving the classics.

5) For the Richmond theatre-goers, it’s quite a hike to get to your location in South Chesterfield. But at your performance of The Miracle Worker, I don’t remember seeing an empty seat in the house. I feel Swift Creek Mill Theatre is a prime destination for people in the Metro-Richmond and Tri-Cities areas to see a fantastic performance, wouldn’t you agree? Thanks for your time. Best of luck to you. 

It’s really not as much of a trek as people think: about 20 minutes from the James River Bridge, and well worth the trip! Our beautiful, historic home (the oldest grist Mill in the United States) is a prime destination for many folks, too. You can take a 20-minute drive and go back 350 years; then enjoy a wonderful meal and a terrific show! What could be better? We also have a full season of Youth Theatre, and we often have Boomers bringing their grandkids to see those productions.

Thanks for your time. Best of luck to you. 

Swift Creek Mill Theatre: 17401 Jefferson Davis Hwy, South Chesterfield, 23834.

Prices: Theatre only: $38.00  Buffet & Theatre: $55.00  (plus service charges)

(Senior, Military, Student & Group Rates Available)

Box Office: Call 804-748-5203 for reservations or visit for online ticketing.

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