Theatre Review: “Art” as a Shared Stage Production

The cast of Art, left to right:  Earl Campbell II, Larry Adams, Daniel Shock

On Sunday evening, after finally mowing my yard for the first time in three weeks(!), I drove to the west side of Indy to Ben Davis High School’s performing arts center to see the Carmel Community Players’ production of “Art” in Wayne Township Community Theatre’s space.  “Art” was written by Yasmina Raza.  This particular production was directed by Ken Klingenmeier and produced by Kim Howard.

I loved this production the first two times I saw it, back in March, in Carmel.  I loved how it made me think deeply about art and friendship.  I loved it again on Sunday night, even though (maybe because) it was slightly different in the borrowed space and with actors who had had a few months to consider what they would do differently, given a second chance. 

Daniel Shock was subtly funnier as Serge this time.  Larry Adams was somehow more human as Marc this time.  (Adams said later that it was because he had allowed more of Marc’s sadness to show.  I agreed as soon as he articulated this.)  Earl Campbell II allowed his portrayal of Yvan to expand just slightly to better fill the much larger theatre space, especially during his now famous monologue.  (See the way he did it in Carmel here on YouTube.)

I felt renewed affection for all three characters, and for all three actors, for that matter.  The juxtaposition of familiar story, familiar set (designed, constructed, and decorated by Ken Klingenmeier with props by Kim Howard and a painting by Shawnessy Osborn), familiar musical background (sound operated by Mike Harold) and familiar actors with the much less familiar and larger theatre, felt very fresh and yet comforting.  The experience is hard to describe, actually, but it was very pleasurable.

I also very much enjoyed the post-show discussion.  I learned that this first “Shared-Stage Productions” collaboration came about when Director Ken Klingenmeier took the kernel of an idea he had received from actor Susan Freeman and ran with it.  Freeman had said, “Why don’t you bring your show out here to the west side so my husband and I can see it?”

Klingenmeier thought Freeman’s idea had exciting possibilities.  “Professional theatres often take their shows on the road, but community theatres rarely do (probably because of costs),” he said during the post-show discussion Sunday night.  However, he thought it made sense for community theatres to experiment with taking their shows from one side of the Indianapolis area to another, just for single weekends.  It would allow the host theatres to offer their home audiences an extra show during a season.  It would also allow the originating theatres to get some more mileage out of the hard work they had put into their shows in the first place.

It would also allow the casts to “open the doors to change” and to a deepening of their own understanding of their individual roles and of the plays themselves.

He approached the leaders of the Wayne Township Community Theatre with this “Shared Stage Production” concept.  Together they ironed out an agreement of who would be responsible for what.  The success of this first collaboration has made Klingenmeier hopeful about future partnerships.   He said they would only be possible with certain kinds of shows, of course. I.e., shows with small casts and very portable sets.  But the possibilities are definitely there.

In the meantime, I’m just glad I got to see these three guys in this show again.  At the end of the piece, Ivan says that “nothing great or beautiful was ever born out of rational thinking.”  The women sitting behind me on Sunday night called out, “That’s right!”  And I agreed with them.

But in the post-show discussion, Earl Campbell II said that he doesn’t necessarily agree with his character.  “Thinking is important,” Campbell said.  It is an important part of the process of making art.  The director and the three actors all did a lot of thinking and talking and analyzing during the first rehearsal process.  They came back together a week before the run at Wayne Township and talked some more.  Campbell’s comments made me realize that one of the themes of “Art” is that thinking is as important as feeling when it comes to creativity.

But there is also something irrationally magical about these particular three actors as directed by this particular director in this particular production.  I am glad I got to see its final performance.

“Art” is over, but director Ken Klingenmeier will appear in “The Taming of the Shrew” next weekend (July 18-20, 2008) and in “Romeo and Juliet” on August 1, 2, and 3, 2008.  These shows are part of the professional, but free of charge, Greenwood Shakespeare in the Park series produced by Safe House Productions.  One of these days I am going to have to get sorted in my brain all of the wonderful Shakespeare offerings around town. 

“Art”‘s light board operator at Wayne Township, Jeremy Cales, is also the assistant director/stage manager for Wayne Township Community Theatre’s production of “Pippin,” which will open at WTCT’s space at Ben Davis High School on August 8, 2008.

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

4 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “Art” as a Shared Stage Production”

  1. Gosh, I thought I was kidding when I told Ken I took full responsibility for suggesting he come out west. Bless his heart.

  2. Susan – It is just one example of rational thinking turning the tap of creativity…
    Wonderful commentary, Hope. Thank you.

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