Just the bare essentials

The play’s the thing, at least for one local theater company offering audiences a night of fine art — without the falderal of complicated sets and elaborate costumes.

The La Cañada Theatre Company will present its next Black Box Theatre night Thursday, in which area actors perform one-act plays and readings in a minimalist setting meant to showcase the power of a well-acted script.

Each of the four mini-productions will be brief — 12 to 20 minutes — and will display a variety of themes and characters meant to entertain and enlighten audiences, said Albert Pugliese, who founded the company in August 2008 and is now its producer and artistic director.

“There’s an intimacy between the audience and the actors,” Pugliese said, comparing theater to television and movies. “And because it’s intimate, there’s almost something mystical about it — that’s when magic happens.”

Among this month’s Black Box productions are “Teachers,” in which a seasoned educator dishes up advice to a disillusioned newbie, and “Mad Scientist,” about a man who invents a device to communicate with his deceased wife without considering its applications in a politically unstable environment.

All performances are staged with few props and no costumes, allowing audience members to connect more directly with the actors and material, said La Crescenta writer Garry Kluger, creator of “Teachers.”

“You’ve got four walls, a ceiling, a floor and an audience,” Kluger said. “It lets the words and the actors speak for themselves.”

The Black Box Theatre performances are a way for La Cañada Theatre Company to keep local audiences attending events throughout the year in between larger, fully produced plays, like the company’s original modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” which ran in July, and last year’s “The Merchant of Venice Beach.”

Scheduled for 2010 are “Squeak,” an interspecies love story scheduled for February, and a musical adaptation of the fairy tale “Rapunzel” planned for April.

All productions feature original material written by professionals with decades of experience writing and acting for stage, television and film.

Members hope to see their efforts blossom in the community and draw theater lovers as well as families who may be new to the art form.

Bruce Weibe, owner of Tax Free Benefits Specialists and Insurance Co., sponsors the theater group and encourages others to support the growth of what he feels is a badly needed cultural element within Montrose.

“This community has restaurant after restaurant after restaurant, but after you’re done eating, there’s nothing to do in town,” Weibe added. “It really needs another notch, on a cultural level, something that ties it together as a community.”

Pugliese hopes to expose moreresidents to the organic artistry inherent in stage performances and show them there’s more to acting than what we see on television.

“The play is the thing,” he said. “The writers showcase their work and the actors showcase their talent — it’s really exciting.”


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