The raging-est days of the Covid pandemic rendered theaters everywhere down, but not out, as freeFall’s founder and artistic director Eric Davis explains in Episode 3 of our Arts Alive! podcast.
Davis is joined by the company’s community outreach (and marketing) chief Matthew McGee, an actor who also happens to be a frequent performer in freeFall shows, for a spirited discussion of past, present … and freeFall future.
Audiences, they explain, are coming back … slowly.
A formidable creative force, Davis is asked what makes him most want come to work every day: “I’m very much interested in how the audience’s experiences interact with the play,” he declares. “That’s a big part of, to me, what the theater can currently do compared to other forms of media that are similar that employ other technologies.
“For instance TV, film, but also interactive gaming, things like virtual reality, et cetera. There is an immediacy and a kind of spatial interaction that’s happening in real time, right now in real space, that can happen in the theater. That can’t happen in those other mediums.”
That’s not to say he’s gone off traditional, proscenium-type stage plays. “I’ve directed many of those, and I love that, but I also like to pierce that veil, even in those type of productions. And I think that people will see that at freeFall.”
(This partially explains why the seating configuration is different for every freeFall show.)
Audiences should expect to see more theater-to-theater partnerships in the future, such as those last season with California’s Ebony Rep (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill) and Sarasota’s Urbanite (A Skeptic and a Bruja).
Davis praised the collaborative nature of these partnerships – sharing ideas for the good of the show is always a win/win – plus, it’s easier to get grants. Grantors like collaborations.
“And financially, and also from a long term sustainability perspective, theaters working together more to present more of their work, to more audiences, is good,” Davis says.
Next onstage for freeFall, opening Jan. 28, is Mat Smart’s historical drama The Agitators. A story about the enduring but tempestuous friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, it stars Jennifer Christa Palmer and L. James.
Davis and McGee will team up as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville (March and April), and the season closes in June and July with the long-awaited debut of Oz, with book by Davis and songs by freeFall musical director Michael Raabe.
“Oz,” Davis explains, “is about L. Frank Baum’s relationship with his most famous creation, The Wizard of Oz. The whole Land of Oz, really, because he wrote many books set in Oz.
“He had a complicated and sort of beautiful, and in many ways prescient, relationship with his creation that I think has … only become more relevant to current events and where we find ourselves.”
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