In its highest incarnation, theatre brings people together in a communal way, embodying universal truth through the joining of story, actors, and audience. While the possibility exists that every local theatre company thinks about its art in exactly this way, St. Idiot Collective exists almost exclusively to emulate that ideal as a group practicing the Suzuki and viewpoints techniques, two acting disciplines focused on telling stories through physical relationships among actors and the audiences for which they perform. Given their philosophical and practical leanings, and their designation as a collective, it's most appropriate that SIC's latest effort, Rainbow Family of the Serendipitous Now, or the Orpheus Project, centers on a retelling of the Orpheus-Eurydice myth, using characters and some of the events from the lives of a notorious American family.
"We began working in January," says Adrienne Dawes, SIC's business manager and, in this case, the playwright. "We really wanted to work on a collaborative project as a company. We knew we wanted something from a classic story -- that's how the Orpheus and Eurydice myth came about. And the Manson family story also came about at that same time. It's a contemporary story, music is a huge catalyst, there are a lot of different perspectives about what happened, and it keys on ensemble. We had a series of different rehearsals, called playdates, where we would come in and work in composition style. Sometimes I would have text that I would have them specifically work with. Other times we just got up and said, 'Okay, what's the simple story here?'"
Collective. Collaboration. Family. Ensemble. In SIC rehearsals, those concepts play out in a palpable way. The one I observed began with group warm-ups in which the company members seemed to move as one, with no one leading but everyone following. When they separated to create portraits of their characters tripping on acid, even the individual creations seemed connected, despite being formed in different rooms by different actors. The members of SIC embody the best of collaborative live theatre, in both philosophy and practice, and while fun and fellowship filled their rehearsal, they take the "collective" part of their name quite seriously. That isn't surprising, since most of them studied theatre at St. Edward's University and have been working together for close to eight years.
"I'm so happy to be able to build work with these people," says core company member and director Jeffery Mills. "I've never had a group of friends that's so large and has so consistently been a part of my life. I'm just so proud of us, that we continue to either consciously or subconsciously put energy toward being together and working together, that these projects just keep happening. It's very rewarding when you look around the room and you see people that you really respect and care about. It's a real gift. A real joy."
Rainbow Family of the Serendipitous Now runs Aug. 10-18; Thursday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm; at Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd. For more information, visit www.rainbowfamily.eventbrite.com.
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