BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar, A Look at Indie Theatre's Movers and Shakers
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Week's Topic: Making History the Flux Way
The Indie community is a popular place for new plays, and is often considered by many to be the research and development home for new scripts. A play is a new playwright's baby and the companies they take them the babysitters - and, in the theatrical community, you'd be hard pressed to find a better babysitter than Flux Theatre Ensemble.
The Flux Theatre Ensemble is a group of multi-faceted theatre artists composed of playwrights, directors, actors and designers who develop new works are re-imagine classics through collaboration and ensemble efforts. Each season is tied together with a common theme that is character-driven, globally engaged and uniquely theatrical. Mission statements we have read on theater companies websites numerous times. But there is truly something different about Flux, and at the root of the undeniably innovative and consistently powerful work they do is their unique model and process for an indie company.
This is a company that is so tight knit and lives with each script for so long that the work produced is so organic, one would swear that it had been in development for years upon years rather than a few months. Flux productions take risks, engender collaboration amongst a creative team, and leave an audience with the questions that last long after the stay at the theatre. Standouts from Fluz's past include: Pretty Theft, exploring the complexities of mental illness against the backdrop of ballet, and the startling Angel Eater's Trilogy, a cycle of three plays running in rep that told the epic story of individuals who have the power to bring the dead back to life. Flux used all of it's members for this trilogy in a perfect example of collaborative development.
Flux is a member based company. Following a model similar to that of Steppenwolf, the performers in Flux have lived with each other throughout numerous shows. They have a sense of each others' work and will choose plays that fit the characters they play best. They more often than not work with the same directors and playwrights, and as a result, the audience is treated to the off-stage drama involved in the development and maturing of these collaborative relationships. Audiences are additionally participants in the growth of these artists who have a home, a unique experience for both indie artist and audience member.
This style is one that many companies aspire to, but very few achieve, because there is one key ingredient that new companies do not have: Time. Flux has spent time with each other and has developed such a shorthand that when an audience sits down to a Flux show, there is a distinct feeling that they are watching a family of performers, rather than a disparate group and the audience is invited to be a part of that family.
This is illustrated incredibly well in their latest offering The Lesser Seductions of History. The play, which focuses on how people's lives are affected by the events of the 1960's could easily be considered this company's August: Osage County. Playwright August Schulenburg (who is also the Artistic Director) crafts a tale that threads the lives of these characters together in an intricate spider's web around Candice Holdorf's omniscient character "One" in the middle, who lets some get away and emotionally devours others. The ensemble moves seamlessly through this web thanks to expert direction by Heather Cohn, who gets stunning performances out of ensemble members Christina Shipp (who evolves from an emotional wreck to a symbol of hippie energy), Ingrid Nordstrom (who gives a visceral performance as someone in a life and death struggle), and Matthew Archambault (who portrays a failed ball-player turned war veteran battling the demons of his past). This is just a smattering of the stories and emotional material presented in this piece. The show has a few more performances at the Cherry Pit before it takes its rightful place amongst the classics of Indie Theatre History. The book's still open so you can catch it before it closes.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.