It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of RTP co-founder Michael Gooding on Saturday, April 9, after a long period in hospice. Michael leaves behind his long-time partner Stephen Lam, a large loving family and a lifetime of laughter — as well as a theatrical legacy in Richmond Triangle Players.
Triangle Players was born from a conversation between actor-director Steve Earle and Michael just over 30 years ago. Steve wanted to do plays vested in the LGBTQ experience (at a time when mainstream area theatres weren’t willing or interested) and Michael knew a place it could happen — the upstairs performance space at the old Fieldens after-hours club. Michael brought on fellow businessman Marcus Miller, Steve brought in fellow artists John Knapp and Jacqui Singleton and a theatre was born.
Michael was the driving business force behind Richmond Triangle Players for the next two decades — making sure the checkbook was balanced and all the bills were paid. When the space at Fieldens was no longer a hospitable space for RTP’s artists and audiences, he led the charge to find a new home for the theatre — and when real estate entrepreneur Robb Moss showed him the building at 1300 Altamont Avenue, he knew it was RTP’s new home.
“You cannot walk into RTP’s Robert B. Moss Theatre without seeing Michael’s work everywhere you look,” says executive director Philip Crosby. “From the lobby layout with our distinctive bar, to the cabaret-style seating, to the curtain that closes as the show is about to begin — those are all there because of Michael’s vision, determination and frankly insistence. And they help to make our theatre the beloved venue it is, for artists and audiences alike.”
After the theatre opened in 2010, chronic health issues led Michael to retire from being the theatre’s managing director, while maintaining a seat on the Board for several years. In celebration of his 80th birthday. and gratitude for his many years of service to the theatre, RTP dedicated its 26th season of productions to Michael.
There will be a memorial held at Richmond Triangle Players to celebrate Michael’s theatrical legacy at a later date to be announced.
Thank you, Michael, for a life well lived and your contributions to make Richmond the warm and welcoming place it has become. You will be long remembered.