The behind-scenes-blog of Bare Theatre and its affiliates.

A Look Back at 2013…

2013 certainly has been a watershed year for this little theatre company that could.  Four different productions took us from Common Ground to Historic Stagville to the amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre.  We collaborated with amazing circus artists from Cirque de Vol Studios and brilliant musicians brought to us by PineCone.

Here’s a look back…

February: WINTER ACTS 2013

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Maegan Mercer-Bourne in “The Tape Recorder,” part of Winter Acts 2013. Photo by Jeff Buckner.

Our fourth collection of short works showcased a mix of circus acts and dark theatre, with two original new plays and one piece from the 1960’s.  The incredible talent from Cirque de Vol opened the show, featuring a different act each night.  The acts included dazzling hoop work by Paige LaWall (“Papyrus”), acrobatics from Liz Bliss and Jewels, sword dancing from Raleigh’s own bearded lady, “Gatita,” and an eye popping juggling act from Adam Dipert.  This began the collaborative work that would be featured in The Comedy of Errors in May.

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Mary Forester and Loren Armitage in “Fun House,” part of Winter Acts 2013. Photo by G. Todd Buker.

The first play up was “The Hitler Youth Knife,” written by former Rogue Company member R. Alex Davis.  Matt Fields and Justin Smith played college roommates discussing the betrayal of a mutual love – and its consequences.  Heather Strickland directed “Fun House” by Tarboro playwright Jordan Carlson.  Mary Forester and Jeff Buckner explored a surreal dark world inhabited by a mysterious Loren Armitage, who brought back a final memory.  Closing out the night was “The Tape Recorder” from English-born playwright Pat Flower.  The piece, which was featured in the first color broadcast on the BBC, found an innocent young woman (played by Maegan Mercer-Bourne) taking dictation from author Loren Armitage’s reel-to-reel tape recorder – only to discover a diabolical plan waiting for her.

May: The Comedy of Errors

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The set of “The Comedy of Errors” at Stephenson Amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre. Photo by Paul Cory.

Our first production in the Stephenson Amphitheatre had us going big.  Working with the incredible Sara Phoenix and Cirque de Vol studios, the play was set in an antique circus environment, complete with “nimble jugglers,” belly dancers, acrobats, and aerial artists who performed high above the stage on the huge aerial silk and trapeze rig we constructed and dismantled every night.  Pyrotechnics and fire spinning/juggling lit up the nights, and we even made a couple of new friends with the albino pythons that took the stage with us!

I’m proud of every production we take on, but I will always have a special fondness for this one.  The company tackled a lot and conquered several fears along the way – of heights, fire, blades, snakes – and got the audiences rolling with laughter along the way at one of William Shakespeare’s earlier works.

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Mora Harris, Rebecca Blum, Brian Fisher and Chuck Keith in “The Comedy of Errors.” Photo by Paul Cory.

The Comedy of Errors brought in audiences numbering almost 2,000 over four evenings.  Our previously most-attended production, Much Ado About Nothing (2011), saw about 480 over the course of ten performances.  Getting this many people out to see one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays is an achievement in itself, and one I hope all involved are very proud of.

June: Let Them Be Heard returns to Historic Stagville

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Barbette Hunter in “Let Them Be Heard.” Photo by Jason Raitz.

Hot on the heels of Errors was the remount of our 2012 original production based on North Carolina slave narratives.  This time, however, the cast powered through three times as many performances, completing 11 shows in all.

The show had already made INDYweek’s “Best of Triangle Theatre” list for 2012 in the categories of Best Ensemble, Best Direction, Best Production, and Special Achievement in the Humanities.  2013 brought new honors, including a 5-star review of the show, and additional recognition for Best Costumes in the 2013 “Best of” list (congratulations to David Serxner and Phillip B. Smith for that honor!).

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Justin Smith in “Let Them Be Heard.” Photo by Jason Raitz.

Barbette, Phillip, Kyma, Warren, Gil (the new kid!) and Justin even deeper into the characters that gave us these important narratives, and they continue to make this show an overwhelming success.

August: As You Like It

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The Zinc Kings and cast members from “As You Like It.” Photo by Barry Jaked.

We opened our ninth – yes, ninth – full season with one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies.  Heather directed her personal favorite Shakespeare play on the very stage on which she played Rosalind back in 2005 – right before Bare Theatre returned to Triangle stages.  This time we worked with PineCone: The Piedmont Council for Traditional Music, who taught us a lot about live music and bluegrass, and introduced us to some truly excellent musicians.

We knew we were in luck when The Zinc Kings contacted us about doing the show.  Not only did they rehearse and play live throughout the performances – they wrote all original music for Shakespeare’s songs and recorded a new album!  Mark, Christen, and Dan were so much fun to work with, and we hope we cross artistic paths with them again some day.  Incidentally, they picked up a “Best of” honor from INDYweek in the category of Best Original Music!

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The Zinc Kings in “As You Like It.” Photo by Jason Raitz.

I have to say that for me personally, this was one of the most fun shows we’ve ever done.  The cast was so positive and the energy was absolutely contagious.  This production, like Errors, brought in almost 2,000 audience and we couldn’t be more pleased to see such enthusiasm for these plays.

September: SPARKcon 2013

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Stephen Wall, Katie Anderson, Joanna Herath, Joyce Davis, Mora Harris, and Debbie Tullos in Bare Theatre’s theatreSPARK street dance. Video still from “Bare vs. SPARK,” shot by Arthur Earnest.

Our third appearance at “the creative explosion of the South” was a bit different this year.  Since we were on early break and were not promoting any show specifically, we decided to have a dance party in the street.  Actors from at least nine different productions over the past nine years dressed up as their favorite characters and danced like no one was watching.  Not only were people watching, but many of them joined in with us!  If you missed it, the video is here.

November: Company Meeting

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Heather J. Strickland being distracted from directing “Fun House.” Photos by G. Todd Buker.

The first company-wide meeting was held on Nov. 7, and we shared some sad news.  Heather J. Strickland, who had served as Managing Director from 2005 – 2009 and had been serving as Artistic Director ever since, had decided to step out of that role to give her growing family more of her time and energy, and she had just started a new day job as well.

Though I will really miss having Heather in a strategic and artistic decision-making role, I am very pleased that she will continue to be an important member of the company, acting and doing fight choreography in our upcoming Cymbeline, and working on fights in Two Noble Kinsmen.

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Heather J. Strickland interviews with Scott Mason for WRAL TV in the house at Stephenson Amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre.

A great deal of positive ideas came out of this meeting, which was just a first step as we chart new territory with Bare Theatre.  We will continue to seek input from company members moving forward, and we will always strive to make this company a safe, fun, and welcoming environment for artists to create and explore.

What a year.  As amazing as 2013 was, 2014 looks to go even further, with Let Them Be Heard returning to Stagville in winter before touring to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro and later in the year to Hope Plantation and Somerset Place near the NC coast.  Veteran director, actor, and writer Laura Bess Jernigan – who was in the very first Bare Theatre production – directs Shakespeare’s Cymbeline at the Cordoba Arts Center at Golden Belt in Durham.  We close out Season IX with Two Noble Kinsmen: Fire & Shadows, which will reunite us with Cirque de Vol performers in the amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre.

More great things to come!  We hope you will be there with us.  Happy New Year!

– GTB

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