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Firehouse Theatre festival spotlights local first responders

Two people stand in the foreground with one buttoning a jacket onto the other. Five people stand in the background looking away from the camera. Those in the background are looking at an image of an American flag draped from two cranes
Bill Sigafoos
Actors Lindsey June and Amanda Spellman perform at Richmond's Firehouse Theatre. The theater is wrapping up a festival of four new one-act plays this week.

The production of four new one-act plays will be performed Thursday through Sunday.

Firehouse Theatre along West Broad Street in Richmond is wrapping up a festival of four new one-act plays this week. Each was written by a local first responder and details their experiences on the front lines.

Betty Migliaccio has worked as a firefighter for the city of Richmond for nearly a decade. Her story, "Eight Buttons," is a flashback triggered by the death of a colleague.

“Some of the topics are hard to hear,” Migliaccio said. “We do have people who are there to sit with you or give you a minute to breathe if you are just a little overwhelmed with it. And then we hope that you come back in and hear them. Some of them are funny, but they’re all real experiences that all four of us had.”

In an interview with VPM News Morning Edition host Phil Liles, Migliaccio said people in her line of work are slowly beginning to open up about the psychological toll of being first on the scene of a crime or accident.

Two people stand behind crime-scene tape. They appear to be engaged in an argument.
Bill Sigafoos
Dwayne Daniels II and Keydron Dunn perform at the Firehouse Theatre in Richmond.

“There’s still a lot of stigma and pressure to be stoic and to be strong and that we don’t want to share the stories,” Migliaccio said. “But I think there’s now a push for mental health within public safety that is making it a more welcoming experience to talk.”

The one-act ensemble will be performed daily this Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. The First Responses festival ends April 16.

Firehouse Theatre one acts

Eight Buttons: Firefighter Betty Migliaccio guides the audience through memories triggered by a colleague’s death

Mother At Work: Retired Fire Capt. Kathryn Kahlson navigates the parallel lives of a first responder and the woman she meets on an emergency call.

Pillar: Former Richmond Det. Ben Toderico provides insight into suicide intervention.

Something So Small: Police Capt. Anthony Jackson transports viewers to a fresh crime scene that opens a portal to the past, present and future.

Phil Liles is VPM's morning news host.
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