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‘The House is on Fire’ dives into four lives around the 1811 Richmond theater disaster

Author Rachel Beanland
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Rachel Beanland, author of "The House Is on Fire," will speak about her book Thursday at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

Local writer Rachel Beanland traces four real-life characters, who tell a bigger story about early America, in this historical novel.

A new historical novel called The House Is on Fire, by local author Rachel Beanland, tells the story of a deadly theater fire in Richmond in 1811 that killed more than 70 people.

It traces the tragedy from the perspective of four real-life characters: The daughter of Patrick Henry — who has to fight not only to get out of the burning building but has to battle inequality; a young stagehand who to tries to warn his theater troupe about the fire; and two enslaved African Americans whose lives, like all the characters, are forever altered by the event.

All their actions tell a bigger story about life in early America.

Beanland will be speaking about her book Thursday at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

The entire interview has been edited for content and flow.

Ian M. Stewart is a reporter, fill-in anchor for VPM News and he produces the World Music Show for VPM Music. He covers all sorts for stories in the region, from local government to sports to transportation issues.