Story: Leigh Neely
A small, intimate theater offers experimental plays and innovative acting.
The Villages often has led the way with new and exciting ventures in this area, and one of the most popular of late is The Studio Theatre. The building was formerly a country club, and that’s the beauty of a black box theater: they can be built almost anywhere.
A popular concept in the 1960s and ’70s, the black box theater is thought by many to be “pure” theater because it relies more on the human element and less on the technical side of a performance. However, it actually dates back to 1921, when Swiss designer Adolphe Appia introduced the flexible staging techniques that make this type of theater unique.
A black box theater is normally a simple, unadorned space. The walls of The Studio Theatre are black, and there’s very little room for staging and setting. In the recent production of “Proof,” the entire performance took place on the back porch of a small house. Though the set was minimal, the play’s message about dealing with the overwhelming family issues of aging parents and memory loss dominated the performances. The theater seats 99.
“The Studio Theatre Tierra del Sol began when Jason Goedken (my husband and our operations manager) and I started here at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center,” says Whitney Morse, artistic director. “We noticed a tiny little gap in the entertainment offerings in The Villages and surrounding communities. There was no regional theatre doing new work like dramas, heavier musicals, or classics. So, we thought, let’s do it. This is what we did before moving here, so why not bring this theatre style we love with us? That was that, and now we have a professional urban-style theatre added to our hometown.”
The theater opened in November 2016 and has become more popular with each performance.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive, not only from The Villages residents but also people from all over Central Florida. We sold out every single show in our first season,” Whitney says. “People actually stop me in the street or come up to me in restaurants to thank me for opening The Studio. It’s been a stupendous first year. We’re on the cusp of announcing our second season, and we are so excited to bring the community many more years of theatre to come.”