Unconventional methods work for this new play
We all know the drill: the ushers seat the audience, the lights dim, the curtain goes up, and the play begins.
But what happens when all theatrical boundaries are removed, blurring the separation between the on-stage drama and reality, with no clear start or finish? Santa Cruz producer Alan Fox is determined to find out. Last week, Fox debuted his second career production, an original musical called “The Street”—think “Cabaret” meets Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
But this is not your average musical. Not only will the actors interact with the audience throughout the show, but also complimentary drinks and desserts courtesy of Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola will be served, a tarot card reader will be on site and a few members of the Santa Cruz folktronica band Audiafauna will play music 20 minutes prior to the start and continue through intermission.
“It’s a little circus-esque,” says Fox. “I’m very interested in making theater that’s not so conventional.”
The story unfolds one night on a dark and gritty street where sex, crime and power reign. Change comes, and it happens with the arrival of a newcomer who challenges the way things are run, forcing the characters to reevaluate their lives.
An original production might sound ambitious for Fox, who is an executive recruiter for non-profits by day with a single Cabrillo College directing class on his theatrical resume, but anyone who saw his directorial debut of John C. Picardi’s “The Sweepers” last year would probably disagree. The full-length tragicomedy followed three Italian-American friends during the last days of World War II. Fox’s version, which served complimentary Italian food and champagne, sold out at all six of its Broadway Theatre performances.
“I was always taught that whenever someone comes over, you better be sure they’re well fed,” says Fox of his consideration for theatergoers’ taste buds.
Fox’s unusual means of entertaining the audience are all a part of what he calls “breaking down the fourth wall,” or tearing down the imaginary barrier between the audience and the stage. Rather than sitting back and watching the drama unfold at a distance, the audience is invited to engage with the actors and become part of the story.
“It’s nice when you get to see something different that’s not like every other play,” says Fox. “It’s a little bit dark, but it’s also uplifting and inspiring.”
With the success of his freshman effort, he has been itching to get back behind the scenes. So when 26-year-old Cabrillo graduate and director Shara Free pitched him the idea for “The Street,” he jumped at the opportunity and even flew to Amsterdam to do research.
For Rachelle Campillo, 26-year-old assistant director, actress and co-author of “The Street,” seeing the script come to life on stage will be a wish come true for her and Free. “It’s our dream to have someone produce our original script after we’ve put in all this work,” says Campillo, who also wrote two of the songs, “Ragtime Baby” and “My World.” “It’s great that someone has faith in us and our vision.”
Campillo and her fellow cast members—a third of whom live at the Tannery Arts Center—were assembled in May by Free, who also commissioned a few members of Audiafauna to write all original music for the production to include folk, ragtime, jazz and some string instrument pieces.
With a small budget of $6,000 primarily going toward lighting, burlesque costumes and set design, 40 members of the Santa Cruz arts community, including all of the actors, are donating their time to the musical. But Campillo assures that no ounce of extravagance will be spared.
“There are costume changes, skin, comedy, good music—there’s something for everyone,” she says. “This is pure entertainment at its finest.”
“The Street” runs Oct. 2 and Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Pacific Cultural Center, 1307 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz. Tickets cost $12-$19 and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com or (800) 838-3006.
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