I caught up with Anthony Taylor, artistic director of the new Organic Theater Factory, to ask him some questions about the inaugural performance tonight at the Star Palace at Warnors Theatre. (The show continues various nights through Nov. 27.) Here’s the interview:
As far as you know, will this be the first theater production at the Star Palace?
I’m not sure if this is the first theater production in this space, but I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a very interesting space though and part of the mission of the company is to find new places to produce theater in Fresno. It doesn’t have to be in a traditional theater to be enjoyable and in some cases the unique nature of the space can add to the overall product.
How will you use that space? How many seats?
We will be seating 100 people in the space and using the stage that exists there for concerts as the primary space for acting. Our director, Danielle Jorn, has really brought a fresh perspective to using space in exciting ways too. The first thing she told me was that we were going to need a projector, and so we are using a projector to enhance scenes and speak to where characters are throughout the show. In the future I’d love to do a show with the large floor to ceiling windows as the backdrop and the skyline in the background, but we’ll save that for another show.
Does it have a backstage area? Will the space be used for other functions during the run so you have to clear it out, or have you been able to take over the space?
The Star Palace is two spaces in one. One side of the room is a wooden dance floor and the other side of the room has a stage set up for smaller concerts. We’ll be using that side. We are lucky in that there are no other groups using the space during our run, so we won’t have to tear down. We have created our own backstage area from an old kitchen and storage hallway. In many ways this is a guerilla production.
Some people have never been to the Star Palace. What’s the parking situation like?
The parking situation downtown is not great, but it’s not nearly as impossible as people want to believe it will be. The meters will not be active during our show times and spill over parking is available at the Longs Drugs across the street from the Warnors. I’d hate for people to stay away from the show because the parking is an unknown. Plus, the more we drive people into downtown for events like this, the more it will behoove the city to improve those issues.
Peter Allwine performed in a local production of “The Last Five Years” a couple of years ago. Do you think he’s approaching this production differently?
Most definitely. Peter is already a stellar and seasoned performer, but with this new direction and more intimate venue he is bringing a new perspective. A lot of that is Danielle Jorn’s direction and the addition of a new co star in Ashley Taylor. Performing the same role with a different actor opposite you forces you to explore different aspects of that character. This is a very different show from Aithon’s production a few years ago.
Do you think it’s better if audiences know the conceit behind the show (one storyline going forward, the other going backwards) before walking in? Or is it more effective if they have to figure it out?
I think the simple knowledge that Jamie tells the story chronologically and Cathy tells it in reverse is certainly helpful, but not necessary. Sometimes it’s hard to make that judgement when you are so far in a show as we are right now, but I feel that with Danielle Jorn’s great conceptual use of a projector to take us to these different places in time, the audience will come along for the ride.
Anything else you’d like to say about the show?
The beauty of this show lies in its truth. It really is art imitating life and I think you can watch the show and listen to the music a hundred times and take something different away each time. This show is so rooted in reality, but with the time travelling aspect it sort of becomes this real life fairy tale. Oh yeah, and come see the show.
Have you announced any more shows beyond “5 Years”? What kind of titles do you envision performing?
We haven’t announced any more shows yet. This is our first show and when the dust settles on November 27th we’ll get together and debrief on the experience and see what we can do better and what worked well for us. It is also a chance for Warnors Theater to see what we can bring to the table and show them that Fresno will show up for theater in the downtown space if we provide it. Some titles I’ve tentatively considered for next year are Company, Songs for a New World, Evil Dead: The Musical and a special collaborative concert during the holiday season next year that would bring dance and theater companies together to show Fresno the absolute boon of talent that exists here. I want to bring titles to Fresno that the theater performing community are excited about performing because I know that excitement will then transfer to the theater audience community as well.