Local Production Group Shadowboxes Into New Theatre
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Growing fast while building community, a local theatre group is moving into a new space.
Starting last January, Post Productions has expanded quickly: Having completed their first season with three hit plays (Oleanna from April to May, The Worst Thing I Ever Did in July and True West from October to November,) the group was already outgrowing its temporary home by the summer. Although their relationship with Sho Art, Spirit & Performance gave them a place to start, it was already time for a change.
This pushed the group to find a new venue. Despite the seemingly straightforward task however, moving from the multi-use facility presented its own challenges.
“I don’t remember how many possible venues we looked into, it seems like a lot,” said Post Productions’ managing director Michael Potter. “We kept running into the same problems: Either the space was prohibitively expensive, unsuitable for theatre or grungy and unappealing to potential patrons. Each time we had a promising lead, it evaporated. So we’d almost given up by the time we found a space on Howard and Shepherd. Thank goodness we didn’t.”
The space in question is Post Productions’ new venue, the Shadowbox Theatre. (Located at 103B – 1501 Howard Avenue)Scheduled to open in February, the new location will usher in new opportunities for the group and performing arts at large in the Windsor-Essex area.
Following their guiding principles, the organization is building a brand and community. This relies heavily on inclusiveness and leaving behind unnecessary competition.
“Having The Shadowbox Theatre allows Post Productions to build a consistent brand in a consistent location,” said Potter. “It provides an opportunity to shape and build the ideal venue for the kind of intimate, immersive theatre that we love. Actors will benefit from being able to rehearse on the stage, using sets and props early in the process so they can better inhabit their characters and the stories they’re telling. It provides opportunities for us to create opportunities for others. We hope that other theatre groups in Windsor see The shadowbox Theatre as a perfect venue for their performances as well so that we can continue to build a strong, mutually supportive, cooperative theatre community.”
Formerly a dance studio, the intimate setting is ideal for Post Productions’ brand of immersive theatre as well. With an expected 60-70 seats, those involved are hoping to eliminate the distance between stage and audience: The end result is to create a raw experience that makes those in attendance feel like they’re part of the show.
” You can feel your heart pumping during the action when you can see the actors sweat two feet from your face, when you can feel the air moving from their bodies in motion,” said Potter. “The separation between performer and audience falls away and what’s left is a roomful of people experiencing life.”
It’s location was also what the group was looking for, being close to downtown Windsor, Via Italia, Ottawa Street Village and Walkerville. Although the theatre won’t have much history when it opens, Post Productions plans on fixing that quickly: Five productions are already in development for 2018, covering comedy, horror, romance and drama.
The group also hopes to produce two locally written plays every year.
“We have plays we’ve wanted to produce for a while (Doubt, Equus) and a newer play that we haven’t seen staged and is perfect for our times (Stop Kiss,)” said Potter about what’s being planned. “Then there’s a stellar brand-new play by local playwright Matthew St. Amand (Shelter In Place), and our first musical, locally written by artistic director Michael O’Reilly, creative director Fay Lynn and myself (Another F***ing Christmas Play.) There’s something for everyone in there.”
Post Productions will allow other groups to use Shadowbox as well. Remembering what they needed when searching for venues, the organization has committed to keeping rates affordable. With access to two bathrooms in the theatre along with three more in the building, its own parking lot, storage area and removable seating for different settings, the licensable facility has much to offer.
For the first time, a limited quantity of season tickets are being sold by the group. Providing value for theatre goers while covering upfront costs, Potter hopes to build a community and offer perks for supporters
“We’re going to hold special events and raffles for season ticket holders throughout 2018, if we sell enough of them to make such things viable,” he said. “The first such event will be the grand opening party for The Shadowbox Theatre, which will happen immediately following the first performance of Doubt. There will be food, music and great conversation with what we hope to be both new and old friends.”
In addition to this, people with season tickets will gain access to premieres of all 2018 shows and George Manury’s CD, Between You, Me and the Crickets.
For those afraid of a stuffy theatre production though, O’Reilly doesn’t think they should worry.
“If you have never been to the theatre before, or not since a school field trip, I think we’ll blow your mind,” said the artistic director. “Although we haven’t reinvented theatre, There are a lot of mind-blowing theatrical experiences to be had in Windsor. The thing that I hope makes us different is the immersive feeling we provide, using the theatre’s natural intimacy, stories and performances with affective energy and unique attention to sound. As we did with composer George Manury’s music in True West, we will continue to experiment with composers, musicians and other sound curation ideas. We want to send our patrons out into the night air with their heads buzzing from the experience and reflecting on new ideas.”