Aug. 19--Nothing goes together quite like alcohol and off-Broadway musicals about dating.
This was proven definitively last month, when Studio 33 brought "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" to the stage of The Gig on Crockett Street.
"We wanted something different, something outside of a theater," said director Elizabeth Lea. With a show that features numbers like "Single Man Drought," "I Will Be Loved Tonight" and "Hey There, Single Gal/Guy," it helps to have a cocktail in hand while you take it all in, particularly if you're sans date.
Theater in Southeast Texas is in the middle of a creative renaissance. Saturday, Beaumont Community Players and Studio 33 hosted the Gary Garrison Playwriting Festival, a day-long festival featuring short plays by local playwrights.
The area still has Orange Community Players and the Port Arthur Little Theatre, too, but theater companies like Studio 33, Outside the Box, Stage Left and Ad Hoc Beaumont are eschewing the traditional theater setting altogether to bring shows to the people.
Often, they're bringing these shows to people in bars, restaurants and art galleries.
"My whole thing is bringing theater to unconventional spaces," said Ramona Young, founder of Outside the Box and director of "Love, Loss and What I Wore," a readers' theater production showing at the Logon Cafe this weekend.
As is characteristic of these rogue productions, there's more to see than just theater at this show -- there's food, booze and even a little artwork from artist Andy Coughlan.
"I see a show at the Logon as kind of like seeing a band," Young said. "You come out, pay a cover and see a great show."
No theater etiquette. No dressing up. Just art and a little libation to wash it down.
Young, who also has hosted shows at the Woman's Club of Beaumont, said the theater experience changes when you leave the theater itself behind.
"It's much more accessible," she said. "This isn't like traditional dinner theater -- nobody's solving a mystery from something taped under their chair."
Next weekend's production -- which will benefit the Torchy Maypole Memorial set up in memory of the late Paula "Torchy" Salter -- is "like 'Vagina Monologues' without the vaginas," Young said. The production uses vignettes to explore stories of women's lives as told through memories triggered by articles of clothing.
Young started Outside the Box for a very specific reason: To create more roles for middle-aged women.
"There are more actors my age than there are parts," she said. "I figured if I wanted to see more roles, I needed to make the opportunity. I think women have powerful stories to tell."
Young is excited to tell those stories to a new venue.
"I feel a little like a theater evangelist -- it helps bring new people in," she said.
The creators of Ad Hoc Beaumont are sort of like theater evangelists, too. But in their case, they're bringing theater to people adventurous enough to see a production beneath someone's house or at a replica oil boomtown.
"I've always liked unconventional venues or site-specific theater locations," said Michael Mason, founder of Ad Hoc Beaumont. "While living in New York for eight years and during college, there was always this idea that as long as you have a story to tell and people to tell it, theater can happen anywhere."
Earlier this year, Ad Hoc's production of "My Aim is True" led viewers on a journey through the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown museum, where the audience witnessed gun fights and followed characters from the replica saloon to the barber shop and around the museum grounds.
"I think a level of intimacy comes with these kinds of productions that you can't always get in a standard setting," Mason said.
At one particular Ad Hoc show under an Old Town home called the Beach House, the audience huddled under the house, taking nips from flasks while watching a production that involved two non-human actors: a pair of chickens who proved to have excellent comedic timing.
"The actors and audience are able to mingle and chat before shows start," Mason said. "Dropping the fourth wall for a bit and allowing for a laid-back, social atmosphere that never gets too stuffy (changes) the older notions of what a theater environment needs to be. I believe this lets us connect better with the non-theater-going crowd."
Ad Hoc Beaumont is currently working on a top secret show later this month that won't use any venue at all, but he can't share too many details yet.
"I can say it is an experiment in space and the boundaries of where theater can be performed," he said.
Beth@TheCat5.com @BeaumontBeth on Facebook, Twitter & Foursquare
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