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Most Memorable Spaces in 2015 Theater

Shows that best approached their venues as integral

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Discussing “the use of space” seems like theater wonkery, but there is something to be said for approaching venue not as mere parking space for a play, but as integral to the production. So I’m saying it (in no particular order) to wrap up 2015.

A novel, even challenging approach to space has been standard operating procedure for all 25 years of Quantum Theatre, but founder/artistic director Karla Boos topped herself (again) with The Winter’s Tale in the landmark Union Trust Building. The collaboration/adaptation of Shakespearean antics (with Chatham Baroque and Attack Theatre) echoed the froth and whimsy of Downtown’s Flemish Gothic masterpiece. The intimate view of the building’s stained-glass rotunda added to the fun.

In its 126 years, the world’s very first Carnegie Music Hall has seen many productions, many changes and several names. It’s now the New Hazlett Theater, and Kinetic Theatre Co.’s take on August Strindberg’s The Dance of Death upended the interior’s standard versatility. Producing artistic director Andrew S. Paul eschewed the normal seating, instead crowding the audience onstage for this intimately vicious comedy.

TaeAjah Cannon in Bricolage’s outdoor-set Saints Tour - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • Photo by Heather Mull
  • TaeAjah Cannon in Bricolage’s outdoor-set Saints Tour

The distressed borough of Braddock is seldom taken for a wonderland. But with true theater magic, that’s exactly what Bricolage Production Co. and Real/Time Interventions pulled off with Saints Tour, conceived and written by Molly Rice. Multimedia, multicultural and family-friendly, the play was a memorable and fun journey through local history and legend via bus, hike and parade.

Speaking of Braddock, the new home of barebones productions is possibly the most intimate black box in town, but with a wonderfully raked seating area. Audiences literally must walk across the stage to get there, allowing a discerning eye to examine the finely detailed sets of the venue’s first two shows, Miki Johnson’s American Falls and John Pollono’s Small Engine Repair.

The black box of Grey Box Theatre was resplendent in Throughline Theatre Co.’s multimedia vision of the exotic but dystopian world of José Rivera’s Brainpeople. Ever-changing projections helped to actualize the magic realism, directed by Sean Sears, assisted by Casey Cunningham and Vance Weatherly.

Also worth a mention is the daring if dangerous “immersion” play Professor Eldritch’s Asylum for Uncanny and Extraordinary Women, from Uncumber Theatrics and Devious Maid Productions. And let us not forget the song-filled Downtown café created from the unlikely Peirce Studio of the Trust Arts Education Center by PICT Classic Theatre for Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, directed by Alan Stanford.


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