“Lights, camera, action,” is the normal saying for any theatrical performance, but for Marshall theatre’s new play The Spitfire Grill, the saying is simply “action.”
“It’s pretty low-key, but it’s a very intense and cool show,” senior Daniel LaBarbera, a cast member of Spitfire, said. “I think [Mr. Tamborini] wanted to try something different.”
During the first week of December, the cast used its new rehearsal space to perform the show in a black box style of musical theatre, stripping the show of all its components and leaving it as just the actors just reading their lines.
The show had minimal lighting, no costumes, no sets, no props, no blocking and actors were allowed to have the script in their hands. They were allowed to read off of the script, but were encouraged to go off-book and really portray the characters.
One purpose for the black box style is to encourage more audience participation – the role of the audience members is more active rather than passive in this type of theatre.
“The audience has a lot more freedom and participation because they’re creating the setting in their mind – we’re not giving them what to think,” junior Kailee Sibley, a cast member, said.
New school construction included a rehearsal space ideal for black box, which provides incentive for performing in this style of theatre.
“We wanted to use the black box as something more than just a rehearsal space, because it’s a really nice facility,” Sibley said. “We wanted to try to start figuring out how to do performances in there as well.”
Many of the performers in Spitfire had not performed before in a style that excludes normal aspects of a show.
“I’m so used to not being able to see past the front row, because of all the lights and the production,” LaBarbera said. “This is so intimate with the audience and so raw.”
Because of the black box, the performers in Spitfire had to adapt to a more direct approach of acting and singing in order to engage the audience.
“Since the audience can’t see you doing anything other than what’s going on in your face and maybe limited hand movement, you have to make what you’re saying and especially what you’re singing make sense to them without there being any motion,” Sibley said.
For some actors, Spitfire is the perfect play to use the black box, although the play is typically performed in a full production style.
“When you take away the distraction of the movement, then you can really just get into the core of the emotion and lose yourself in it,” Sibley said. “You could even close your eyes and get the full impact of what’s going on.”