Theatre

Out Loud Theatre Goes Free For All

"We want to draw attention to the public domain mentality and fully embrace it all the way through the season."

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Since Shakespearian times, even the so-called “groundlings” could afford a world-class live theatre performance, albeit one that involved several hours spent standing smushed in a crowd, craning your neck above the heads in the audience. In fact, an inherent aspect of theatre itself has always been making concessions to make it affordable for all. Out Loud Theatre is one of those collectives, and they’ve just announced that their upcoming 2016 season will be “conceptualized, created and experienced [entirely] for free.”

It’s the group’s fourth complete season, and Out Loud has been “slowly moving towards creating more devised work,” according to Artistic Director Kira Hawkridge. Collectively, they had a light bulb moment when it came to what they consider a “free for all” initiative. If they truly wanted to create art for the people, they needed to knock down any remaining barriers to accessibility.

“We want to draw attention to the public domain mentality and fully embrace it all the way through the season. It [is] an opportunity for us from an artistic standpoint, too – a way to challenge ourselves, as well as our audiences,” says Kira.

The company doesn’t take issue with operating on a shoestring budget, says Kira. Out on the fringe circuit, there’s not much call for heavy set pieces or a library of costumes, particularly when you don’t have a resident space to call your own. Company members are donating their time, and props and costumes are minimal, often on loan from other collectives. All of the plays – Sophocles’ Antigone, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus – are available in the public domain, meaning the company pays nothing to acquire, much less produce, the scripts.

“I’m personally really excited about creating under these circumstances,” Kira says of the free season, “and finding ways to make the story effective while also embracing the overall arch of what we’re looking to do with our season.”

It’s plain to see that Out Loud, as a rule, is more interested in the process of asking and answering questions than pinning down concrete answers. It’s certainly true this season, which has a sort of meta-analytic component for Kira; namely, she and the company want to know how things do (or don’t) change for the audience when a production is produced and performed entirely for free.

“Does it change your connection to the piece? Does it change your relationship to the story or the experience? We’ll be having talkbacks throughout the season – and we’re looking to have this conversation on a community-wide basis: what does it mean when you just open the doors and tell audiences, ‘This project is just as much yours as it is mine?’” she asks.

It’s not to say that if you’re impressed by what you discover, you can’t contribute to the group, Kira adds. But more so than that, by removing the nominal ticket price for admission, Out Loud showcases an investment in examining what kind of an audience dynamic and experience they can grow and cultivate on the broad stage of the Creative Capital, itself – theatre by the people, for the people.

Out Loud Theatre
outloudtheatre.org