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Hark, Villains! We’re moving!

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After two-plus years and 51 posts, we are moving the Hark, Villains blog to baretheatre.org.  All new posts from here on out will be located there.


Out of the Gates in 2014!

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With a powerfully transformative year behind us, we launch into this Year of the Horse at full gallop.  An original Bare Theatre production begins to tour, three other productions explore oft-overlooked plays by William Shakespeare, and we begin to delve into some of the other noted Jacobean writers.

Five full productions are on tap for this year, three to finish out our ninth season and two in our our tenth.  We will return to some of our favorite places to play as well as discover new spaces.  Here’s a quick rundown of things to come:

February 21 – March 16: Let Them Be Heard (In Winter)

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The original slave quarters cabins at Horton Grove, Historic Stagville.

The critically-acclaimed original drama based on real slave narratives returns to Historic Stagville in Durham, this time with new characters and stories from North Carolina history.  The program is a walking tour that moves in and out of the original slave quarters at Horton Grove, stopping by the bonfire pit outside.  Narratives detail life during slavery and The Civil War, and they give insight into life during Reconstruction and beyond.

After a two-week run at Historic Stagville, Let Them Be Heard moves to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro for our first-ever performance there.  ArtsCenter Stage Director Jeri Lynn Schulke will take over directing to adapt the show to the theater space and the show will expand to 75 minutes with more narratives.  Let Them Be Heard runs at The ArtsCenter March 7 – 16.

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The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

Later in the year, in June and July, we will also begin to tour Let Them Be Heard to other historic plantation sites, including Hope Plantation and Historic Somerset Place.

March 27 – April 12: Cymbeline

At the end of March, we take on an oft-overlooked gem from William Shakespeare.  Cymbeline is a true favorite of some of our company members, and has been referred to by some as “Shakespeare’s greatest hits.”  The play is epic, spanning locations and genres, and thus it is difficult to categorize.  As such, scholars have listed it among Shakespeare’s comedies or tragedies.

We place it among the comedies because it fits the original sense of the term “comedy” – meaning that the protagonists succeed and there is a happy ending.  There is still plenty of humor, however, often provided by the villains of the play.  There is betrayal and sadness as well, and the play culminates with a huge battle.  There’s romance, laughs, tears, even a beheading…This is a play well worth taking in!

Laura Bess Jernigan, who performed in the very first Bare Theatre production ever, directs Cymbeline with a cast of nine who will double and triple-up roles.  She is very interested in the recurring theme of rebellion found in the text, and is taking this production “underground.”  We will be performing for our first time in the Cordoba Arts Center at Golden Belt in Durham.

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The cavernous Cordoba Arts Center space.

May 23 – 31: Two Noble Kinsmen: Fire & Shadows

This Spring we return to Stephenson Amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre for the third time with a play not usually included in Shakespeare’s canon.  The Two Noble Kinsmen is attributed to both Shakespeare and John Fletcher, another renowned writer of the era who took over as house playwright for The King’s Men after Shakespeare.

“Kinsmen” is a re-telling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales, and the story centers around two cousins of nobility who both fall madly in love with the same woman and are eventually forced to fight each other to the death.

The theme of this production, “fire and shadows,” reunites Bare Theatre with fire and pyrotechnics artists from Cirque de Vol Studios and Mesmerizing Arts, and will also include shadow play mixed in with live action.  The mix of light and dark, fire and shadow, along with a gripping script will captivate audiences in the beautiful outdoor setting.

Mundi Broda with fire fans in last year's "The Comedy of Errors."
Mundi Broda with fire fans in last year’s The Comedy of Errors.

Season X

Our tenth full season kicks into high gear with another lesser-known work by Shakespeare: Coriolanus.  This time Bare Theatre will team up with parkour/freerunning athletes from the newly-opened Enso Movement to perform an unforgettable outdoor experience.  Inspired by the Moral Monday protests at Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh (which tie in remarkably well with the political climate in the play), we will turn the government complex into our stage and lead audiences on a thoroughly modern take of this gripping tragedy.

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We then turn to the pool of other Jacobean playwrights that get overlooked because of Shakespeare’s prominence.  Veteran actor Matt Schedler, who last directed The Merchant of Venice for Bare Theatre, directs a bloody tale called The Revenger’s Tragedy.  The play, originally published anonymously in 1607, was performed by The King’s Men and attributed later in the century to Cyril Tourneur, although modern scholars believe it more likely to have been written by Thomas Middleton.  Nonetheless, fans of violent revenge dramas will enjoy this show next October.

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It’s going to be an exciting year.

We want to thank everyone who has participated with Bare Theatre in 2013 – the actors, directors, crew members, Kickstarter supporters, and of course, audience members!  Theatre is about community – live, in person, visceral and intimate – and it is about memorable experiences that cannot be duplicated in the same way on film or television.  The community we have found in the Raleigh-Durham area has been wonderful, and we simply could not do any of this without all of you.

2014 stands before us.  Come join us for the fun!


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


THIS is why I can’t get any sleep…

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Jeff Buckner and Seth Blum in The Comedy of Errors. Rehearsal photo by Brian Fisher.

THIS.  This is why I can’t get any sleep.

No, not the photo.  It’s the month or two before a show opens up.  The first few weeks aren’t so rough, things seem to go very well and very easy.  Everything is clicking along.  There’s always that honeymoon period where it seems like the show will go off without a hitch.

Then you get to that hump.  It’s usually around the time of getting everyone off script.  I dread this from the actor’s perspective – I hate learning lines and I’m terrible at it.  Blocking does not stay in my head.  So I feel their pain when it’s time to put the book down, but it has to happen.

I get frustrated for them just as I get frustrated myself when I have to get off book.  As director I start to feel it pile up because there’s twenty people trying to remember their lines and their blocking, and did we add them to that scene?  The pace of rehearsals slows.  We simply can’t get through as much as when everyone was reading from their scripts.  Only now they have to start grabbing each other, smacking each other, and fighting with weapons.

It’s at this point in the process that Time turns against us.  Rehearsals fly by, and sometimes we don’t get as far as I’d like.  Sometimes we don’t get to people’s scenes, and they wonder why they were called that night.  With an outdoor show that rehearses outdoors, you lose time when you have to go inside – your building closes a half hour before your outdoor rehearsal would have.

All of that is normal.  This time, we’re adding Circus to the mix.

Don’t get me wrong – I live for rehearsal.  Rehearsal is therapy.  Rehearsal is social time.  Rehearsal is time for honesty with people who won’t judge.  Rehearsal is tradition, it’s ritual, it’s sacrifice (of time and energy), and it cleanses the soul.  I am fully aware of how pompous all of that sounds, but it’s true.

Even during the rough period of getting off book, rehearsal makes me feel whole because I can see the final piece coming together.  Whether it’s by small steps or big steps on a given night, there is always some progress toward showtime.

So even with a thousand details and things I want to work with 20-some actors, I live for it.  But I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about it.  Planning, strategizing, trying to figure out how weather works and if I can predict it or not.  Trying to figure out what certain actors understand and what other don’t based on different backgrounds and experiences.  Trying to remember to email someone about tiny hats, or flags, or what is that shirt made out of, or when can we work that one fight scene?

Last night I really couldn’t sleep because the Circus was coming.

I have to admit that knowing that we would have our first rehearsal actually working circus artists into scenes kept me up.  They have a different process.  They train alone or with tight partnered units usually.  They’re not used to a long rehearsal process because they’re always performing and training.  Would they have patience for our process?  Would they understand what the hell we were saying?  Would they think it was funny?  Would they be bored?  Would they care?

Would it be distracting to have people performing circus stunts onstage while actors are performing the play?

It was the not knowing.  The first-timedness of it all.  The part that excited me so much about undertaking Errors, and the part that I’ve secretly feared this whole time.  We built it up quite a bit, after all!  We’ve almost raised $3,000 in two weeks.  If this didn’t work, where would we be?

Tonight we got our first glimpse.  We got to run a full scene with a snake dancer, a poi spinner, and a fan-dancing bearded lady.  And it exceeded my expectations massively.  We got to talk with aerialists and plan, and imagine.

I now know that it will work.

Circus actually adds to the comedy and the story.  The concept crystalizes.  Ideas that the actors and I would not have had presented themselves easily once circus artists took the stage with us.

The fear is now entirely gone.  But now I’m going to lose sleep because of all the new ideas that are presenting themselves.

– GTB


We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Tent.

We are constantly looking for and inviting people to join the ride that is Bare Theatre.

It’s been quite a ride.  In the last seven years, we’ve performed 15 of Shakespeare’s plays, four collections of one-acts, and 2 SPARKcons.  We’ve performed in at least eight different venues around the Triangle, in Durham, Raleigh, Cary and Holly Springs.  We’ve performed outdoors, in an art gallery, and in an original slave quarters cabin.  There has been a lot of stage blood and no less than two inflatable, um…creatures.

This past year, we took a break from Shakespeare, which we used to perform almost exclusively.  I think this was necessary – it was time to get out of what was becoming a comfort zone.  That’s not to say we had mastered his work by any means, but we were getting very familiar with it and in such cases it can be easy to form habits.

We embarked on a series of projects that took us from Christopher Durang to Eugene Ionesco, from “Hot Greek Porn” to “Hitler Youth Knife.” We also delved into the Works Progress Administration’s Slave Narrative Project with Let Them Be Heard – a project for that appears to just now be beginning (more on that to come)!

These have been incredible experiences that had us exploring clowning in the streets of downtown Raleigh and digging down deep into the roots of racism in America.  I know I personally have learned a lot about theatre, and audiences, and about putting on a show in general.

This year, we want to go big.

For our return to the works of Master Shakespeare, we will be performing two comedies that Bare Theatre has not done before.  The first – coming this May – is The Comedy of Errors, an early screwball comedy of mistaken identities.  The second – slated for September – will be As You Like It, an epic love romp through the forest of Arden.

For these two shows, we knew we wanted to experiment with a different venue and we wanted somewhere in Raleigh, where most of us live.  We had an incredible time doing The Winter’s Tale at Sertoma Amphitheater in Bond Park a few years back, and it seemed like booking shows in Spring and Fall would be great times for outdoor theatre.

And we’ve wanted to perform at Raleigh Little Theatre’s Stephenson Amphitheatre for a while, too – ever since a group of folks who would later form much of the core of Bare Theatre performed As You Like It on that very stage in 2005.

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“As You Like It” on the Stephenson Amphitheatre stage in 2005. Bare Theatre would begin producing full seasons with many of these folks months later.

This is a big venue.  Research tells us this place holds somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 audience members – a far cry from the intimate black box of Common Ground Theatre, a space we love and call home.  The stone walls and raked wooden stage are perfect for Shakespeare but the question becomes, how do we fill it?

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Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre. Photo from http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org

Collaboration is the answer we came up with.  Many months ago I conceived Errors as a circus show, but I knew that to really pull it off we would need actual jugglers, hoop dancers, acrobats, and the like.  Luckily, sharing the streets of SPARKcon with circus artists has introduced us to the amazing talent involved with Cirque de Vol Studios.  Enter Sara Phoenix and the crew at Cirque de Vol.

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Aerial silks at Cirque de Vol Studios. Photo by Cirque de Vol Studios

How to fill a huge stage?  Take an already big cast and add circus.  We’re now exploring having a silk aerial rig onstage, as well as lyra and possibly a slack rope.  Throw in a few fireballs.  Make the city of Ephesus, the sole location of Errors, a circus town with a marketplace filled with tricks, stunts and artistry.

This is an ambitious project.  Certainly it’s the biggest show I’ve ever attempted.  I already need to thank Sara and Cirque de Vol as well as Charles Phaneuf and Raleigh Little Theatre.  Without their help this wouldn’t be happening.

It is happening, and it’s going to be one crazy show.  Stay tuned!

– GTB


Reflections on WINTER ACTS 2013.

With WINTER ACTS – our fourth annual collection of contemporary one-act plays – under our belt, we’re feeling pretty good. We premiered two original works by North Carolina-raised playwrights, R. Alex Davis (Raleigh) and Jordan Carlson (Tarboro), and presented a little gem from 1967 from Australia’s Pat Flower.

Each night kicked off with a different circus act from Raleigh’s amazing Cirque de Vol Studios, so we want to thank Sara Phoenix for all her help in coordinating those acts.  Lots of thanks and praise go to Paige LaWall (aka “Papyrus”), Liz Bliss Roberts & Julia Hartsell Crews (Jewels) of Carrboro’s Flowjo, Betty Adorno (Lady Gatita), and Adam Dipert.  They truly displayed some awesome talent, and we are looking forward to collaborating with these and other artists on our upcoming show, the circus-themed Comedy of Errors at Raleigh Little Theatre’s Stephenson Amphitheatre.

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Paige LaWall (aka “Papyrus”), Liz Bliss Roberts & Julia “Jewels” Hartsell Crews, and Adam Dipert perform at WINTER ACTS 2013. Photos by Heather J. Strickland and G. Todd Buker.

We also want to thank our wonderful stage manager, Emily Huffman – it is hard to believe this was only the second show she’s ever stage managed!  Our running crew of one, the fabulous Tim Randall, is an absolute champ and somehow managed to perform major surgery on magnetic tape!

Of course, our three casts deserve much love and respect.

Justin Smith and Matt Fields are two of the nicest guys we know, not to mention talented actors.  Asking them to be absolutely terrible people onstage is asking a lot, but they went with it and found their dark sides somehow!

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Matt Fields and Justin Smith in R. Alex Davis’ “The Hitler Youth Knife.” Photo by Jason Bailey.

Mary Forester, Jeff Buckner, and Loren Armitage tackled the strange and wonderful story of Fun House head on. This was a very collaborative process with everyone weighing in on where we had all been, where we were, and where we were going. There is not a better, more supportive team to be stuck in a fun house with.

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Loren Armitage in Jordan Carlson’s “Fun House.” Photo by G. Todd Buker.

“The Tape Recorder” was a really unique process, and I am very thankful for the talent and adaptability of Maegan Mercer-Bourne and Loren Armitage.  It wasn’t an easy play to do, especially for Maegan having to carry a half hour piece without speaking!

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Maegan Mercer-Bourne in Pat Flower’s “The Tape Recorder.” Photo by Jeff Buckner.

One of the highlights of the production was the addition of audience discussions with the playwrights and actors. We learned a lot about each artist’s individual work, the process, and ourselves in sharing those behind-the-scenes pieces with our audiences. We are also grateful for those that stayed after curtain to ask thoughtful, insightful questions.

This show reminded us how good it is to look at new material.  We want to thank all of the playwrights who submitted their work and thank them for the fresh perspectives and new ideas they brought to the table.

Looking forward to next year’s collection!

– GTB & HJS


“Fun House.”

Loren Armitage and Heather J. Strickland in rehearsal for Jordan Carlson's "Fun House."  Photo by G. Todd Buker.

Loren Armitage and Heather J. Strickland in rehearsal for Jordan Carlson’s “Fun House.” Photo by G. Todd Buker.

It has been over a year and half since I have directed or acted. The birth of my lovely baby girl took me off the stage for a little bit and I was glad to have the opportunity to delve back in slowly with this year’s Winter Acts.

I was also a little nervous. Becoming a mom changed the whole world for me — it became a lot more colorful, but also a lot scarier. I had no idea how this would come through in my art.

What I have come to realize over the past couple weeks of rehearsal is that experience only makes us better. It does not matter what kind of experience — as we layer on personal perspective, as our knowledge base grows, we only benefit from understanding a bit more about this beautiful, wonderful world and why it goes round.

And so I came to be the Director of Fun House with a whole new appreciation for everything around me and was thrilled with the challenge I found myself in.

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Jeff Buckner and Mary Forester in rehearsal for “Fun House.” Photo by G. Todd Buker.

The cast and I started the process figuring out what was going on. The world of this play did not have clear rules and so we set out to define them. What were the parameters for the science experiement that Larue and Atlas found themselves a part of? We picked out all the facts from the sciprt and built the experiment from there. We also had to make a few of our own choice about these characters. Where were they going before they found themselves in the fun house? What were the promises that were broken?

As we continued on this journey, we all came to realize that it was not the setting that we needed to focus on, but the relationships of these three characters. The interactions were defining the place, the Fun House, for us. Once the severity of responsibility to others was added, the play became much scarier and the motivation to figure out what was going on became more intense.

Mary, Jeff, and Loren have discovered incredibly rich characters with so much history to each of them. All of that experience, that knowledge base, is brought to this 15 minute window of their lives to tell a thrilling, moving story.

And for me personally, that brought it back to my new role as Mommy. My new base of understanding has absolutely created fear and uncertainty of the things that I cannot control, but I have never been more grateful for the experience of a new perspective than that of being mom to my stunning daughter.

-Heather J. Strickland, Bare Theatre Artistic Director