Theatre  is Making a Name
Impressed faces look on toward the actors. The faces are excited, but filled with suspense. The faces, attached to wondering minds and entertained souls, often sit on stage rather than fade into darkness away from the stage. With Theatre ’s productions, the audience is unique and treasured. Unlike many theatres, Theatre  goes to great lengths to ensure their audience is part of the performance—up close and personal—rather than simply watching from afar.
Louisville, Kentucky may be a city in itself, but the city of nearly 700,000 is made up of many distinct communities: Downtown, Butchertown, The East End, The West End, The South End, and Old Louisville. To Theatre , the idea of community is central to its productions. The boutique theatre seeks venues throughout Louisville that increase the audience’s level of intimacy. Doing such engages the audience more directly than having them in seats, far from the actors.
“We want our audience to feel like they’re part of the show, part of the theatre they’re bringing to Louisville,” Gil Reyes, one of the co-artistic directors, says. He then reminds me of one of Theatre ’s core values: “We want more than patrons, we want partners.”
Just a few years ago, three friends—Amy, Mike, and Gil—had been working in Louisville for some time. The three like similar plays, but also noticed a gap in the type of programming available in Louisville. Now Co-Artistic Directors, the three want to focus more on directing the performances than performing, all while keeping each and every performance relatable to Louisville and its sense of community. How did the name Theatre  come about? “We played with a few different names,” Gil says, sitting across from me. He recalls some of the names that did not make the cut. “We wanted something that was catchy and something that was local.” The group wanted to offer a different kind of theatre to the 502 area-code, so they decided to keep it sweet and simple with the name Theatre .
To avail itself to Louisville’s various communities, Theatre  seeks plays with themes that speak to the Derby City’s audience. The theatre easily reads 100 plays a year, while watching theatre companies they know and reading works of playwrights they know as well. Actors and designers, both of which are local, are encouraged to weigh in on the plays as well. “We try to find plays that we think will speak to Louisville audiences,” Reyes says.
In response to the question of what themes speak to the audience, Reyes explains the idea of making meaningful, personal connection and some of the obstacles that keep us from doing that, such as technology. Love is a reoccurring theme, but not in the romantic, traditional comical way—more along the lines of how complicated, heartbreaking, and messy love can be. Heightened reality is also a theme that speaks to Theatre  audiences as the theatre likes to make people more aware of the wonder in everyday life. The Debate over Courtney O’Connell of Columbia, Nebraska by Mat Smart, which Reyes describes as “a great and accessible story,” was the theatre’s first production.
“Recent and Relevant” are the types of productions Theatre  aims to put on for Louisvillians. The theatre tries to produce plays that are 3 to 5 years-old because most of such plays are not well-known and doing such gives the viewers a fresher look at the talent. Theatre  wants to provide additional training for Louisville actors, increase the talent pool and quality of work being done in the city, and give actors the tools they need to seek out bigger and better jobs. To give Louisvillians the best-possible performances, Theatre  sets a standard of spending 6 weeks with the actors, rehearsing 4 to 5 nights a week in 3 to 4-hour blocks. With a goal of providing opportunities for local talent, the theatre’s productions are purely local—actors, designers, technicians.
As a boutique theatre, Theatre  uses various Louisville venues for its June through November productions. The company does not want to own real estate—they like moving space to space. Despite the locations, a crowd of between 300 and 400 “partners” attend each run of a show. To further strengthen the feel of community, Theatre  has used various theatres around Louisville: the intimate Victor Jury in Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Baron’s Theatre, The Land of Tomorrow Gallery on Broadway, Walden Theatre, and The Parkside Studio at Iroquois Amphitheatre. In the latter venue, Theatre  brought the audience onto the stage through the loading dock. Future venues include the Clifton Center, and The Mex in the Kentucky Center of the Arts. The “community” of Louisville is helping Theatre  gain recognition. Louisville Magazine voted Theatre  as Critic’s Choice for Best Theatre. The theatre placed in 3 categories for Leo’s 2012 Reader’s Choice Awards: 1st for Best Theatre Troupe, and 2nd place for both Best Performing Arts Group and its production of Broadsword. Theatre  is in its 3rd Season and puts on 3 shows per season—each Artistic Director directs one performance.
Theatre  is currently producing a serial theatre piece of Stranger and Ludlow Quinn by Diana Grisanti and Steve Moulds each First Friday Trolley Hop. The shows, which happen in chapters, occur on the hour, 7 through 10 P.M., in the Baron’ Theater at 131 W. Main St. with free admission. The 10-15 minute plays run through April then a full-length play. Theatre 502’s next full-length production is Edgewise by Eliza Clark, opening on August 16. For more information on Theatre , please visit www.theatre502.org or find Theatre  on Facebook.