Marjorie Arenstein graced Richmond stages as a leading lady and contributed her abundant energy and talent to establishing and growing Richmond theater companies for nearly three decades. We were fortunate to have her perform at Barksdale Theatre’s Hanover Tavern as “Olwen Peel” in Dangerous Corner (1957), “Leona Samish” in Time of the Cuckoo (1958), “Jessica” in Janus (1963), “Edith Lambert” in Never Too Late (1965, reprised in 1966), and “Hannah Jelkes” in Night of the Iguana (1967).
She also performed in and worked on productions at The Virginia Museum Theatre, Richmond Theatre Guild, Summer Theatre, Catholic Theater Guild, Renaissance Theater, Richmond Drama Workshop, Jefferson-Lakeside Country Club and the Jewish Community Center. Her leading roles included her self-proclaimed favorite “Anna” twice in The King & I, “Liza Elliot” in Lady in the Dark, “Dolly Fabian” in Once More With Feeling, “Mrs. Shankland” & “Miss Railton-Bellin” in Separate Tables, “Elizabeth Moulton-Barrett” in The Barretts of Wimpole Street, “Julia Nadori” in The Kids, “Sheila Broadbent” in The Reluctant Debutante, “Major Barbara Undershaft” in Major Barbara, “Lydia Bolton” in Mr. Angel, “Nora Geraty” in The Righteous Are Bold, “Helen Pettigrew” in Berkeley Square, “Nancy Fallon” in A Roomful of Roses, “Hedda Gabler Tesman” in Hedda Gabler, “Sorel Bliss” in Hay Fever, “Julie” in Liliom, and “Anna” in Anastasia.
A veteran of Richmond radio productions while in high school, then Marjorie Watts’s first major break came at the age of 17 in New York City where she sang “Wake Up and Live” on radio’s Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour. Following her graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School, Marjorie went on to study in New York at the Alviene School of the Theatre. She returned to Richmond, married lawyer and real estate developer David Arenstein and started a family. When the last of their three children entered school in the 1950s, she returned to the stage, and we are so grateful she blessed us with her considerable devotion and talent.
The stage at Virginia Repertory Center’s Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre was generously and lovingly dedicated “The Marjorie Arenstein Stage” by her children and grandchildren in her memory and in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the golden age of theater in Richmond. Her work and that of her many colleagues and contemporaries helped form the basis for the remarkable quality of theater still produced and performed in this theater and this community.