Alayne Hopkins, Catherine Johnson Justice, Sara Marsh, and Ryan Lindberg from Outside Providence
Photo by John Eastman
Sara Marsh was in Los Angeles when she first came across Edward Allan Baker's short play Delores. After reading it, she knew "I wanted to do that show." She searched the playwright's past works for additional short plays and found two more -- Rosemary with Ginger and Face Divided -- that could make up an evening.
Back in the Twin Cities, Marsh decided she wanted more than just an everyday theatrical performance. Instead, she wanted to present an evening that would attract audiences in the 18-to-35-year-old age group.
The proof comes this weekend, when Outside Providence opens downtown, the first show from Dark & Stormy Productions. Not only will audiences find the trio of one-acts, there also will be live music and plenty of chances to relax and socialize during the evening.
It's certainly an audience not often reached. "I asked my friends what they had seen in the last year, and they said nothing," Marsh says. "They want things short, and they want something else to go with it. They want to make a night of it. They are not having that right now."
The trio of one-acts are presented as an Equity Showcase, with three of the four actors belonging to the stage actors' union. The showcase format offers Equity members a chance to experiment without all of the requirements.
"There is a cap on how much you can spend on the production and advertising, and the actors agree to donate their work," Marsh says. "The interest is in getting exposure or doing a show they want to do."
Along with Marsh, the company includes Alayne Hopkins, Catherine Johnson Justice, and Ryan Lindberg. Award-winning director Matt Sciple is in charge of each of the one-act plays.
The pieces appeal to Marsh's ideal audience because "the characters are almost all in that age group. The world they deal with is gritty and funny and dark and trashy. We get presented with these three-dimensional characters who are dealing with issues like abuse and alcoholism but also pick on each other for the clothes they wear.
"They pack a lot of emotional wallop into a short amount of time. When I talked to people, they said it would be nice if plays were shorter. With social media, everyone is used to having information that is relevant specifically to them at their fingertips," Marsh adds.
Outside Providence is also presented at a nontraditional venue -- Powered by Engine, a warehouse office space. The space has offered plenty of opportunities for the show. "There are huge windows. When we were teching, people were outside watching," Marsh says.
The other piece of the puzzle is live music. So far, a trio of acts have been lined up to perform: the Sudden Lovelys (Friday), Skunk Hollow (Saturday), and Lingua Luna (Sept. 15).
The ultimate idea is to keep the audience engaged throughout the evening. "It might cause them to say 'I love this,' and see something in a more traditional style. It's a way to grow awareness and grow the audience base," Marsh says. "Most traditional shows are two to three hours long, and it doesn't offer any time for socialization in that setting. In this way, people can hang out and talk about it while the band sets up to play."
IF YOU GO
Friday-Sept. 15; Friday's performance is sold out. No performances Labor Day weekend