As more new theater companies emerge across the state, particularly in the Providence/Cranston area, diversity and choice clash with opportunity and availability. Audiences and resources are stretched thin and the most immediate practical need – performance space – becomes a literal showstopper. Many theater companies form with a wealth of talent, but no place to stage their work, often relying on rentals, creativity (e.g., “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot”) and goodwill. Contemporary Theater Company (CTC), now situated comfortably in Wakefield with their own theater, was nomadic for years, using college lecture halls and parks to great advantage. Being homeless is not necessarily a bad thing for a theater company, and Kira Hawkridge’s burgeoning OUT LOUD Theatre melds their gypsy ethic with some practical partnerships that allow them the ability to stage progressive works without losing their edge.
The abovementioned CTC is part of the three-theater partnership that forms RITA, the Rhode Island Theater Alliance, allowing CTC, Mixed Magic and Epic Theatre Company to share resources, space and audiences. Kevin Broccoli, Artistic Director of Epic, recently extended that reach to invite Hawkridge and OUT LOUD to share Epic’s space(s) at The Artists’ Exchange for their current season of unique and challenging offerings. Epic currently has the run of two theaters at Rolfe Square, Cranston (#50 & #82) and sometimes has two shows running at the same time. However, leaving either space dormant, Broccoli recognizes, is akin to leaving the faucet running when so many performance artists are struggling to find adequate space for their work. Having worked with Kira Hawkridge as a director for past Epic shows, Broccoli wanted to extend the invite to collaborate with OUT LOUD and allow them some continuity as they embark on a challenging year ahead. “We are thrilled to have someone as innovative as Kira as our second Epic sponsorship,” he proclaims (the first being Burbage Theatre Company) and Hawkridge has wasted no time in getting to work, crafting a 3-month program of projects and workshops.
It has been an eclectic year for OUT LOUD Theatre. The company went full-time in 2013, and quickly found a niche alongside their brethren in the Rhode Island Theater community. Kicking off their 2014 season this past spring with their month-long Tour For Social Change, they followed up with the haunting and unnerving Crave by Sarah Kane at the URI Providence Campus this past June. When offered the Epic Sponsorship, the first call to order for the fall program was to begin work on Mary Zimmerman’s Tony award-winning Metamorphoses. Broccoli assumed that Hawkridge would want full use of Theater 82, the larger of the two spaces, but she saw a special opportunity in the tiny 50 Rolfe Square theater instead.
“The cast of Metamorphoses is large, and with that space, the cast may actually outnumber the audience. I like that, the idea of bringing the cast and the audience as close as possible,” says Hawkridge. This approach fits in with how she wants OUT LOUD to work. The season, like all of her work, is a series of projects built around “working from the ground up” and exploring the boundaries of physical work and core emotional connectivity through what she terms “immersive storytelling and shoestring innovation.” Creating and embracing visceral and experimental material in a multitude of locations sets them apart, and staging such an ambitious project in such a tiny room, especially when a more traditional theatrical setting was offered, keeps OUT LOUD on the edge.
“The freedom and possibility outweigh the difficulty,” she says. “It is thrilling to be able to move into a new space, transform it, create an immersive experience and a specific atmosphere, and then pack up and move on to the next thing.”
That next thing will be the New Play Readings & Workshop Series in November. Various playwrights, some local and some newly arrived in Rhode Island, will present new and untested works throughout November, featuring talkbacks and a transparent view of the relationship between author and director. “I like that interplay and the opportunity to have the playwright at hand, something a director doesn’t often get,” says Hawkridge. She sees the series as not just an opportunity to stage new work, but as a showcase for new writers such as Andy Boyd and Alex Maynard to have their work seen. “It’s more of that collaborative energy that is supportive and fuels you onward,” she says. The new works will be paired with directors who don’t often get a chance to work outside of a company structure, further extending the mission of OUT LOUD to extend the traditional boundaries of what we see in Rhode Island theater.
“Our seasons are cohesive in the fact that they are all different,” says Hawkridge. “Each project we embark on has a different cast, artistic team and overall vision.”
To learn more about this collaboration and OUT LOUD Theatre’s Fall Series of projects, visit outloudtheatre.org.