Alum spotlight: Larry Brown (M.F.A. ’78/A) and Jennie Brown (M.F.A. ’78/A)

wedding photo and anniversary photo

Larry Brown MFA Theatre Directing and Playwriting, 1978

Jennie Brown MFA in Theatre Performance, 1978

Jennie and Larry at VCU in 1976

When Larry came home to Lynchburg for Christmas one year, he noticed the people in the car behind him hopping out and racing around the car at a spotlight. Two of them were now alums Jim Godsey (BFA ’76) and Eloise Ziegler (BFA ’77). They said “come down and stay with us at VCU. In one day, I was enrolled in grad school and had an apartment. They also put together two part time jobs in admissions, so I could afford it.”

Jennie’s thesis performance at VCU in 1976

Larry arrived to VCU a semester before Jennie, “She was in the office and when I saw her I said, ‘Whoa!’ We were friends, shared an office, did shows and projects together for about a year.” Then one day Jenny explains, “this was feeling different.”

Jennie in “The Crucible,” Summer Stock, 1973

During grad school, Larry did a stint in England for London Roundhouse Theatre with Kenneth Campbell, then he took on an internship at Arena Stage, but he began to miss Jennie and began to realize, “This is either really serious and I’m in deep trouble.” They were married in 1976 at Sacred Heart Cathedral near VCU. One of their groomsmen was Tom “Rock” Holloway (former Chair of Theatre).

Print ad with Tom Holloway and Richard
Newdick, 1981

In 1978, Jennie and Larry sold everything, bought a VW bus and covered 28 states in 3 ½ months. While on the road, Jennie recalls, “My mother sent me this clipping about Keith Fowler returning to Richmond to form a new theatre company called the American Revels. I got back, went to the audition and got cast in the first show, then the second show. Larry got work house managing.”

Larry in house management

In 1980, Jennie was doing a show at Barksdale, when owner Muriel Macauley called, “This gal just moved back named Jeri Cutler.” Turns out Jennie remembered that they were both on the Thalhimers Deb Council representing their high schools years earlier. When they reunited, she and Jeri just “Clicked. Jeri said, ‘I have this idea for a school for young performers,’ which became today’s SPARC (School for the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community).”

Jennie in a still from one of Jerry William’s videos

Jennie started as an acting instructor for SPARC at the beginning and eventually became Artistic Director. Soon after, Larry came on board as Managing Director, “We reorganized and built it from 250 students. When we left in 2009, we had 2,500 students in Richmond and statewide involvement was 10,000.”

Jennie, Larry and daughter Hilary at the Theresa Pollak Awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (for SPARC)

Jennie and Larry now live in Virginia Beach. She muses, “It’s everybody’s dream to live near the water.”  Jennie teaches acting, voice, diction and film appreciation at Tidewater Community College. Larry taught at TCC until a year ago, but stopped when COVID hit. He now considers himself retired and has started writing poetry and plays.

Jenny with their daughter Hilary

Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the February 2022 Theatre Alumni newsletter