Orange Theatre Performers Navigate Play As They Go

Published: Friday, January 22, 2016 - 11:52am
Updated: Friday, January 22, 2016 - 4:58pm

(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Composer Paul Pinto (right) goes over a rough script with actors from Orange Theatre.

Maps. That single word provided the starting point for the collaboration. And from there the group doesn’t know quite where they’ll end up. That’s what they’re excited about.

"They" are local theater company Orange Theatre, which has teamed up with two New York composers to create a spontaneous, collaborative performance in just a week.

Matthew Watkins is the artistic director of Orange Theatre, and says there’s a lot to unpack out of the word “maps.”

"We chart not just how to get from one place to another, but what it means to be in that place, the history of that place for us," he says. "We all have emotional connections; did a good thing or a bad thing happen?"

We’re talking inside Orange Theatre, inside the wooden frame of a house. It’s a set design leftover from a previous show-- there’s even a toilet and a bathtub. And, like this house, the performance piece is unfinished.

Paul Pinto is founder of thingNY, a music collective in New York. He says this whole thing is an experiment.

"The experiment is we don’t know what exactly the result will be when composers, performers, directors, dramaturgs and designers work in the same room to create something where everyone has an equal stake in what the performance is going to be," Pinto says.

Even the script is subject to change at any moment. The actors read off tablets and laptops. It’s being created by everyone, informed by personal experience and memory.

Kerin Martinez is a performer with Orange, and says the theme made her think back to a time before modern maps. "I got to thinking about and sharing a bit about my family, who is five generations deep in Arizona, and was here before it was part of the United States."

As the group explores the idea of maps, they’re also exploring uncharted territory in theatre. While the actors set up for rehearsal, Pinto gives them another new idea to try.

"The option to read the stage direction as opposed to do the stage direction was something we actually are interested in you trying," he suggests.

An actor follows suit: “Gets up and goes to book, opens book, flips several pages, finds something of interest.”

Imagine a GPS saying you could turn left, or turn right, or go straight up; whatever you feel like. And with real-time sound effects and music added to the mix, the result is something different with every read-through.

Matthew Watkins says, "The point is not to put up shows as quickly as possible to get as many butts in seats. The point is to advance the field."

In other words, it’s about the journey, and the destination.

You can catch the performance Friday, January 22 at 8 p.m. at Orange Theatre, 1711 W. Culver St. Unit 7, Phoenix.

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