By Rachel White
Entire contents are copyright © 2012 Rachel White. All rights reserved.
Pandora Productions has been pushing boundaries and entertaining the Louisville community for the past ten years with its commitment to producing cutting edge theatrical works that “speak to the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender and Questioning community.” Pandora is a theater company with a mission, and it instills that mission in its actors and crew. Up-and-coming Louisville actor Robbie Lewis was new to Pandora and to the world of theater just a few years ago, but after a successful audition he soon began to see Pandora as his home.
“My best friend at the time was auditioning for Oh My God Mother. He finally got me to go and audition. I went in with no expectations. Had no idea what I was getting into.” Robbie sang, got the part, and found himself swept up in the Louisville theater world, auditioning regularly and bonding with the community at Pandora, including artistic director Michael Drury. He seems surprised and touched that Pandora would embrace him in the way that it has. “To be honest, I don’t know what Michael sees in me, but I guess it’s something.” Robbie has since appeared in four Pandora productions in the past two years, including Oh My God Mother, Zanna, Don’t, Gays in Toyland, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. He has also branched with Sock Drawer Productions’ [title of show]. Like any actor Robbie has a day job, and theater is something he does at night. He doesn’t get paid, but he loves what he does, and he has the enthusiasm of someone who has just discovered something new and wonderful about himself. “It’s an incredible addition to my life that I never knew I had.”
|Robbie Lewis in a previous Pandora show.
Photo courtesy of Pandora Production.
Robbie is particularly adamant about Pandora’s message and its role in the Louisville community. “Pandora has a message. Their mission is to tell stories about the gay community, all aspects, whether from a male homosexual perspective or transgender perspective or lesbian perspective.” Robbie is confident that his work with Pandora is changing people’s lives by making them look at these issues in a new light.
Robbie will appear in Pandora’s upcoming show, Bare, which will be his fifth show with Pandora. Bare will appear at the Bingham Theatre at Actors Theatre and will be directed by Michael Drury, whom Robbie calls “a mentor.” Bare is a pop opera about two young boys who meet at a Catholic boarding school and fall in love with each other. One wants to share his feelings with the world; the other is desperate to keep it a secret. “The story is great,” Robbie says. “It’s a very important message that I think a lot of people need to know. There are high school teenage issues that I think everyone can relate to, whether it’s the homosexuality aspect, the relationship that people have with their friends, or boarding school with all these rules.” Robbie plays Peter, who struggles with coming out to his family and friends.
“One of his struggles is with his mother, trying to come out to his mother, because Peter’s character is very strong. He knows himself and wants to come out. His boyfriend at the school doesn’t and is comfortable with the closet life.” The play is especially important at a time when bullying and teen suicide are so often in the news.
|Robbie Lewis (right) with Jason Cooper in Oh My God Mother.
Photo courtesy of Pandora Productions.
“These kids, they’re all trying to be heard – that’s the biggest message about this show. They all want to be heard, whether it’s heard in confession, or telling your mother that you’re gay, or telling your roommate that you hate her guts – they’re trying to find a voice. And we don’t listen, and we don’t hear. We see in the papers and read in the news about these kids killing themselves because they’re not being heard.”
The title, Bare, suggests nakedness, and sex; but Robbie says it isn’t about literal nakedness but about “baring your soul. You’re stripped. It is stripping.” At the same time, the play is a musical and entertaining. “The music is the driving force of the show. It’s fun.”
In lieu of his deep relationship with Pandora, I wondered if Robbie had any plans to audition elsewhere, to expand his world as an actor and develop his career. He shows some interest in that idea: “After this show closes I’m going to go over and do Rent at Center Stage. That’ll be my first show with Center Stage.” At the same time, his loyalty to Pandora is clear. “I think I will always and forever call Pandora my home,” he says, “as long as I keep doing theater. Theater people are awesome. I’m definitely happy where I am. I’m just enjoying what I’m doing now. I really dive in; I’m a committer. I want to learn everything.”
Book by Jon Hartmere, Jr., and Damon Intrabartolo
Lyrics by Hartmere and Music Intrabartolo
Directed by Michael Drury
May 10-20, 2012
Bingham Theatre at Actors Theatre
P O Box 4185
Louisville, Kentucky 40204