Alum spotlight: Jim Bloch (BFA ’77) & Matt Bloch (BFA ’12)

collage of photos of matt acting and jim at v c u

Jim Bloch, 1977 BFA, Technical Theatre   

Matt Bloch, 2012 BFA, Performance

When Jim was at VCU back in the 1970’s, he spent two years in the acting track before switching to technical theatre. Jim explains, “I saw people around me and how good they were and how I wasn’t, so I switched to lighting.” His son Matt grew up listening to his dad’s stories and experiences. When looking at schools, Matt says “I looked at conservatories, but VCU offered more of a broad scope, which gave me the ability to take courses outside theatre.”

Jim hanging lights for West Side Story for Fanfare (the old professional summer season sponsored by VCU) in ’76. Photo by Charles Sugg

Jim should have graduated in ’75, but was offered a position as Resident Lighting Designer at the Virginia Museum Theatre, which took his time and attention. After three years at the job, he was only one credit short of a degree so Davy Davis, former head of Scene Design, encouraged him to complete a final project and graduate in ’77.

three people standing on scaffolding
(Left to right) Davy Davis, Geoff Hamby, and Jim Bloch hanging lights for West Side Story (Fanfare) ’76.

When Jim left Richmond, he moved back to NOVA, where he landed at Folger Theatre as a sound engineer. This prepared him for his current career as owner of BlochHouse Media, a post-production facility that Jim started in 2005. Currently Matt works with his father shooting and editing video projects in addition to his local acting gigs.

Years after Jim’s own technical theatre experience at VCU and in the Richmond community, he would travel back to Richmond to see Matt perform. Two shows at the former Virginia Museum Theatre (now the Leslie Cheek Theatre at the VMFA) strike Jim as sentimental. “It’s wonderful to see Matt in that space. I would be watching him as a performer, but also as my son. Emotionally for me I got the best of both.“

The staff bio pics from VMT in the ’70’s, Jim in top right corner. Can you spot the other alumni?
students performing
Matt in Hay Fever, 2012.
Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Matt in The Rival, 2009, Shafer Street.

When Matt came to VCU in 2008, various faculty members offered to share stories about his father, but Matt replied, “I don’t want to know.” When Jim would come down to visit, Matt explains, “There were initially some shockers. We were in Shafer Street and he passed by the lighting booth, which is named for his old roommate, Tom Wynkoop”—officially named Thomas E. Wynkoop, Jr on the plaque outside the lighting booth.

Matt worked in Richmond theaters during his time at VCU and an additional year post graduation before moving to New York and “working to survive, which was good life experience for my career.” After four years, he moved back to Richmond to be in a show.

performers onstage
Matt as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet in NYC, 2014.

On changes to the area, Jim commented about the Village (which has been moved across the street from its original location), “everything seems backwards.” Meanwhile, his wife, Matt’s mom, created a nice tribute when she bought two bricks on Shafer Street in their name. Jim concludes, “It’s been a wonderful aspect of life to have in common. Both of our diplomas hang on the wall together.” From Matt, “VCU has come a long way in 40 years and my relationship with my dad has given me unique perspective.”

photo of bricks by shafer playhouse
Jim and Matt’s bricks outside Shafer Street Playhouse
two framed diplomas
Jim and Matt’s VCU diplomas

Meanwhile, Matt and his girlfriend Rachael Rose Gilmour recently performed in The Porch Plays by 5th Wall Theatre. Since they live together, they were able to create and rehearse short scenes at home before performing them on a front porch in the Fan.

actors performing
Matt in Glass Menagerie, 2020

Header Image (clockwise from top left): Matt in The Rival (Shafer Street, 2009); Jim in Temple Building around ’76; Matt in The Glass Menagerie (5th Wall Theatre, 2020); Matt in Cyrano (Swift Creek, 2019); Matt in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Quill, 2020); Jim and Matt at Matt’s graduation from VCU in 2012; Jim working on the set of West Side Story (Fanfare, 1976).

Written by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the August 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter