It's theater without the theater; or the stage, or lights, or even blocking.
Just actors, scripts and a few unusual settings.
This is the concept behind Lou Harry's (Indianapolis Business Journal's arts and entertainment editor) most recent production. Sitelines is a project developed by Harry and John Thomas that will bring play readings to unique locations and audiences around Indy.
The two started theatrical work together about four or five Fringe Festivals ago, when they created the show Going ... Going ... Gone, that is still running today.
"I love play readings," says Harry. "People think of play readings sometimes as a preliminary thing. That it's a way of getting an idea of what a play is. But I see them as experiences in and of themselves not as a prelude to something else."
Harry went on to explain how L.A. Theatre Works opened his eyes to how compelling this format can be with just a script in hand and a few actors. Each production will start with a targeted audience. For example, the first reading will focus on visual art. The Credeaux Canvas by Keith Bunin will be read by four professional actors in Gallery 924, surrounded by a visual art installation. Harry hopes to find niche groups, then plays and locations to match. He makes a quick note that there is a play about Frank Lloyd Wright that would be perfect for architecture aficionados and building preservationists. A few other locations on his bucket list are the locker room at Victory Field, the woods at Conner Prairie, Crown Hill Cemetery and a jazz club.
"This starts with finding a group of people who aren't first and foremost theater-goers," says Harry. "What subject and area are these people interested? And then — we have a long list of those groups — we find a specific high-quality play that speaks specifically to their interest group. Not in an didactic way, not in an academic way, but in a real storytelling way. Something that doesn't just take place in their world, but really speaks to their world."
Based on the idea alone, the curation looks like it will leave a cultural breadcrumb trail, and provide the kind of cross pollination that feeds creative communities. Harry hopes to strip down theater productions to their core — a strong narrative and actors who are not bound by costumes or memorization.
"It's giving them license to be creative and explore it in interesting ways," says Harry.
The first three productions by Sitelines are funded by an Individual Artist grant through the Indiana Arts Commission. Paying the actors is a priority for Harry.
"There are only so many times you can say, 'Oh, this is exposure,'" says Harry.
The plays will also have a thematic tie to place. Harry will only select plays that have not yet been performed in Indy (and are established works.) He hopes the combination will be a catalyst to bring in people who wouldn't normally consider seeing a play.
"We are taking the theater experience to them on their turf in a place that they feel comfortable," says Harry. "In this case I would want to be able to push the theater people who are in the audience to get out to more gallery shows and museum shows, and push the gallery people to get to an occasional theater and see what's available there."
What: SiteLines presents a reading of The Credeax Canvas by Keith Bunin
When: Dec. 10, 6 p.m. Gallery opens, 7 p.m. Reading begins
Where: Gallery 924