Dramatic Mix

By Drozt, Amy | Stage Directions, November 2002 | Go to article overview

Dramatic Mix


Drozt, Amy, Stage Directions


KANSAS CITY THEATER SPOTLIGHT

Actors Theatre of Louisville

Three actors playing 34 characters? Could it possibly be done?

That's exactly what happened when Actors Theatre of Louisville's new artistic director, Marc Masterson, decided to shake it up a bit when he staged a production of Macbeth last winter. Three actors brought 34 characters to life during the run of each show, thanks to several masks and the help of Louisville technology artist Valerie Fuchs, who layered video images to produce costumes, props and theatrical imagery that was transformed to the stage via four video projectors moving throughout the theater space.

This artist-driven collaboration is one of many that Masterson, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, brought to the theater this past season as part of his mission: to bring a new audience to the company while offering productions that suit a wide gamut of tastes.

Not too long ago, there was much buzz about the energy of ATUs new artistic director and what his creative preferences might mean for the future of the company. Many wondered if Masterson, who was hired as the successor to Jon Jory, who brought international fame to the company with the inception of the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays, could hold his own in the ATL spotlight.

Having just wrapped up his first season and heading full speed into the second, Masterson has proved that any initial apprehensions about him were much ado about nothing. In fact, his plan to reach out to a wider range of audiences by offering a more culturally diverse repertoire has reaped rewards for Louisville's contemporary art and theater scene. It has also drawn first-time audience members to its productions, through fare like August Wilson's The Piano Lesson, which attracted a significant number of African-- American audience members to the theater-one demographic that had been lacking.

Other offerings such as improv comedy nights and progressive visual art shows, in addition to several free productions including free children's theater twice a year, have been bringing in new audiences, particularly families and young professionals, many of whom have never been to a theatrical production before.

"We have to continually reinvent ourselves to a new generation and think about how we are relating to our community" says Masterson. "A place like ATL can draw energy from Louisville's artists and contribute to the artistic growth of the community. It also benefits the gallery scene by exposing contemporary art to the theater crowd." Masterson has invited several local artists to curate shows in the theater's lobby and come up with proposals for collaborations.

Recently, during the annual run of the Humana Festival, a showcase of new theatrical works from all over the world that began in 1976, ATL hosted a series of "technology plays" in the lobby, as well as a cutting-edge technological interactive art show, both of which employed local artistic talent. The Technology Project, a series of unconventional participatory plays, dealt with various aspects of modern technology ranging from virtual reality to voice-activated speech devices. In the past, lobby plays during the Humana Festival have always involved themes that question standard theater form when taken out of the theater, ranging from interactive telephone plays and "T-shirt" plays to one that took place entirely inside of a car, with the audience as passengers. …

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