Theater envelopes one differently than movies do. Theater is real-time, personal, engaging. Audience members are present as the art of creation unfolds rather than as passive consumers of a production already created and completed. Actors feel, see, and hear the presence of the audience. The energy of actor can feed off of the energy of the audience. And vice versa.
In essence, theater brings acting closer to home. Theater in a house, as opposed to a playhouse, literally brings the acting home.
I recently had the opportunity to experience the latter, which was an exhilarating experience.
Candlelight Theatre, a small theater group, presents 19th and early 20th century era plays twice a year at the Benjamin Harrison house in Indianapolis, and has been doing so for eleven years. The house, beautifully maintained and furnished with original items, is an excellent backdrop for the plays. Audience members begin in one room and rotate through two other rooms in the house to watch three different plays, which are each about 30 minutes in length.
The theme of the plays this spring is “Deadly Games”—all of the plays deal with games of a sort that if do not lead to death, at least contain danger. The troupe performed one existing play, “Blind Woman’s Bluff”. James Trofatter, the resident playwright of the group, penned another—”The Suicide Club”—based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson. The premiere performance of “Games We Played”, a play written by Michael Yashinsky, playwright and stage director at the Michigan Opera Theatre, rounded out the trio.
The acting was superb. The actors clearly enjoy their craft. There was the occasional misspoken line and subsequent quick recovery, which is expected with acting in real-time. These moments did not distract from the plays but added reality to them.
Situated in sitting and dining rooms, the audience was within feet, if not inches, of the actors. The close proximity made the experience of theater more immediate, deepening the interplay between audience and actor. The line between actor and audience blurred even further when audience members—myself included—were asked to cut cards or were given cards in “The Suicide Club”.
To experience theater up close and personal in a setting that creates an ambiance for the time period, consider attending Candlelight Theatre. Now that I have experienced small-scale theater in the home, I would like more. I am already looking forward to their fall production.