The founder and artistic director of one of Richmond’s premier theatre companies has announced her retirement.
Carol Piersol, who launched 5th Wall Theatre in February 2013, said she will step down as artistic director at the end of February. A fixture on the Richmond theatre scene for more than three decades, Piersol also was co-founder of The Firehouse Theatre Project and its artistic director from 1993 to 2012.
“We are saddened that Carol is leaving, but she will always be at the heart of our company,” said 5th Wall president Joseph Walton. “Thanks to her, we are well known and well-loved in Richmond. We are on solid financial footing, have built a dynamic board of directors and are well positioned to move forward.”
Walton added that Piersol will continue to serve as 5th Wall’s Artistic Director emeritus.
5th Wall started when Piersol and Richmond actor and director Billy Christopher Maupin joined forces in 2013. That first year, they produced four acclaimed productions in four different Richmond venues. Over the next six years, with Piersol at the helm, 5th Wall produced nearly two dozen plays on a variety of stages throughout the city.
These included such diverse performances as Eric Bogosian’s “Talk Radio,” Tennessee William’s “Glass Menagerie,” David Mamet’s “Race” and the Joe Pietro and David Bryan musical, “Toxic Avenger.”
Under Piersol’s direction, 5th Wall has been the recipient of 12 Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards. In 2019, the company staged two of the four plays on its calendar before COVID-19 stopped production in the middle of rehearsals for its third play, Abe Koogler’s “Fulfillment Center.”
“The epidemic put a halt to our ability to stage shows but those restrictions are, for the most part, behind us,” Walton said. “Now it’s time to get our legs back. We are on the lookout for new performance venues and look forward to seeing what the future holds for 5th Wall.”
Piersol’s 5th Wall tenure was preceded by her work at The Firehouse Theatre Project. Her time at Firehouse was among the most productive in Richmond theatre history.
Besides founding the company and securing a permanent building, she taught classes, mentored new talent and oversaw nearly 100 productions. These included classic theatre pieces as well as new works by local and national playwrights. Piersol also was instrumental in developing Firehouse’s Festival of New American Plays.
During her tenure, Firehouse was the recipient of 23 Richmond Critics Circle Awards and the prestigious Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts. In 2011, it was named “Best Theatre in Richmond” in a public poll conducted by Richmond Magazine.
Piersol was one of seven women featured in the first Belle Magazine “Women in the Arts” issue, which honored seven forward-thinking leaders who help bring culture to Richmond. She also was named one of the Top Innovators at the Forefront of Richmond Arts and Culture by Style Weekly magazine.
She was the drama sponsor of Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School from 2014-2018. And in 2019, along with Theatre Lab’s Deejay Gray, Piersol was co-creator of Richmond’s first Women’s Theatre Festival.
“We will continue to rely on Carol’s counsel and insights as we move forward,” Walton said. “She might be retiring but she will never be far from us.”
5th Wall Theatre’s mission is to provide insights into the human condition through theatrical expression. It is committed to the growth and development of new works and new talent through readings, workshops and productions that are relevant to the times.