BWW Guest Blog: OUT Loud Theatre Season 4 - An Exploration of the Public Domain

BroadwayWorld Rhode Island readers nominated four area companies as "Rising Stars/Theaters to Watch" during the 2015 Regional BroadwayWorld Awards. Now, in a four-part series, the artistic directors from each theater will join BWW RI as guest bloggers, sharing their creative vision and inspiration in their own words. First up is Kira Hawkridge, the founding artistic director of OUT LOUD Theatre.

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It is a "bold, bloody, and brutal" Season for OUT LOUD Theatre this year as we dive head first into our Exploration of the Public Domain with adaptations and re-imaginings of three classic stories and notorious characters: Antigone, Dracula, and Coriolanus.

What does the public domain mean, and what does it mean for our ensemble? A few things come to mind: The state of belonging or being available to the public as a whole, and therefore not being subject to copyright. Works that have been signed over to the public by their creator. Available and free to the public. Able to be discussed and examined freely. Allowing for unrestricted access and unlimited creativity.

Exploring the public domain seemed like an organic transition for OUT LOUD. The expansive nature of this conversation has allowed our ensemble to begin to bridge the gap between process and final product. We are looking to challenge ourselves and our audiences by exploring the relationship and possibilities that exist between conceptualizing, creating, and experiencing. We want this work to belong as much to the audience as it does to our ensemble. It is as much theirs as it is ours. This season has allowed our full artistic team to really think about what the public domain means to us as individuals, as a collaborative group, and as members of the artistic community here in Providence/Rhode Island. Fully embracing the public domain, all the way through our season, has become an exciting challenge and a humbling opportunity to be able to conceptualize, create, and experience this season - in every sense of the word - entirely for FREE.

"When I first heard about the concept of 'Free Theatre,' my initial reaction was 'Sweet. Free plays. I'm in.'," says Season 4 ensemble member, Sarah Leach (Dracula). "In our undertaking of OUT LOUD's 4th Season, I have quickly discovered that our definition of 'Free Theatre' means more than just eliminating ticket cost. It has to mean more. To me, 'Free Theatre' means that myself and fellow OUT LOUD Theatre artists are free to push the boundaries of these classic plays and truly explore the message we want to convey - all without restriction or inhibition. It means we can tell powerful stories free of sets, elaborate costumes, or complex lighting, but full of passion and exuberance. 'Free Theatre' means it is free for ALL. Audience, Director, Actor, and Designer can share this art in a safe and free space."

"Season 4 is a chance for me to directly connect with my community," says Season 4 ensemble member Erika Rethorn (Antigone). "The opportunity to sit in a room with people I trust and admire, to create something from the ground up, by the people, for the people, is something close to magic. Season 4 with OUT LOUD is providing this opportunity for me. A chance to exercise my voice, and to invite a conversation with audiences - now."

We are approaching this season as "theatre as public assembly" - bringing the voices of the people back out to the people themselves, and we are doing it all for FREE. By putting a strong emphasis on the voices of our ensemble members and members of our artistic community, we are challenging ourselves to explore and embrace this process, and this initiative, fully.

"To not have to conform to one idea, one form, or one mind is what it means to me to be free," says Season 4 ensemble member Melanie Stone. "The ability to explore the world and view life through so many different viewpoints allows us to learn more about ourselves and each other in a new light. To experience this freedom through performance, it's as if the world hit a refresh button, and something we've seen a hundred times is suddenly brand new. I am excited to know that throughout Season 4, we can give our audiences the opportunity to see these plays for the first time, even though they may have seen them five or ten times before."

Our Season 4 ensemble has been working to connect and discuss all three main stage productions, unifying the process and generating crossover conversation and interpretation. It has been a wonderful experience discovering what connects these stories and what sets them apart.

"I'm really pleased to see the public domain getting some love," says Season 4 ensemble member Stephanie Traversa. "Rarely does someone make [the public domain] the focal point of the season by breathing fresh air into it."

First up is our original adaptation of Antigone in March.

"I'm thrilled to be using my mind and body in the collaboration process of Antigone," says Melanie Stone, who is portraying Haemon. "To discover ideas as a group is liberating and uniquely comforting at the same time. We find ourselves down different paths but always meet together at the end."

Our production is driven by the visceral experiences that drive Antigone throughout the play. We have adapted this story to connect directly to our ensemble members and are working tirelessly to create a cohesive and exploratory narrative with no limitations and/or restrictions.

"To me, Season 4 means free from constraints," says Season 4 ensemble member Kerry Giorgi. "We can experiment and move and manipulate the text, the actors, and the audience freely. It is interesting, challenging, and invigorating to participate in an open and collaborative artistic process."

In May we dive into our original adaptation of Dracula.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Dracula, but rarely do we have the opportunity to experience the essence of this creature with relevance to the public voices of today. The relationship to visceral sexuality and pushing our own personal and societal limits is at the heart of this piece. We are re-imagining Dracula as a powerful, dangerous, and highly sexual creature in her prime; challenging her own limits and personal desires with what society deems acceptable. As we explore the supernatural elements of what makes a story like Dracula soar, we are also questioning what makes these creatures of the night so alluring - and why the humans they interact with become so entirely intoxicated.

Season 4 ensemble member Mary Beth Luzitano expresses her excitement: "Blood + sex + classical theatre? What's not to be excited about?"

Season 4 ensemble member Alijah Dickensen reminds us that "[Dracula] isn't going to be an average vampire story" and that "it is exhilarating to be a part of that process."

We will be wrapping up Season 4 in September with William Shakespeare's Coriolanus.

Because this Season is all about process, ensemble members Tammy Brown (Coriolanus) and Siobhan LaPorte-Cauley (Aufidius), in particular, are already beginning the process of helping to adapt and conceptualize our final production of Season 4.

"To me, Season 4 is about access," says Tammy Brown. "When you take away the barrier of cost, for the theatre company and for the audience, you really start to open things up in terms of possibilities. OUT LOUD now has the freedom to bring a fresh perspective to works that have been a part of the public consciousness for hundreds or even thousands of years without the added burden of trying to 'break even'. And it also sends a clear message to the audience: that everyone is welcome regardless of means or even prior theatre-going experience."

Brown is working to bring that fresh perspective to life and we look forward to sharing our plans for this production once they are fully formed.

This season is a dream come true for me as an Artistic Director. It is exciting to be at a stage were we have the opportunity to create free theatre, in free spaces, with free and open materials - all with artists who are ALL donating their time for free. Everyone participating is on board not only because they are excited about the work, but because they believe in this initiative and want to support it. I am incredibly grateful for the time, talent, and work that everyone is putting into this season and I am thrilled that people are striving to take ownership over these projects and that our ensemble is actively looking to reach out into the community and generate conversations and accessibility. "By the people, for the people."



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From This Author Guest Blogger: Kira Hawkridge

Kira Hawkridge is the founding Artistic Director of OUT LOUD Theatre, an ensemble of theatre artists based in immersive storytelling and shoestring innovation. She works (read more...)

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