Jon Patrick O’ Brien, director Tony Prince, Victoria Reibel, Susan Linville, & Michael Roberts
in rehearsal for Christmas On Mars. Photo-Richard McGrew
By Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Liminal: adjective – 1. Of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process, 2. Occupying a position at, or on both side of a boundary or threshold
The Louisville theatre scene is often described as “active” and “full of talent,” yet eyebrows are sometimes raised when a new company announces its intentions to produce plays. Tony Prince is well acquainted with such questions, and with The Liminal Playhouse, he believes he has answers.
“There are a lot of companies, but there is also a lot of new talent. It seems like every time I go see a play I encounter at least one actor who is new to me,” explains Artistic Director Prince. “It is a highly fluid, changing, LIVING theatre community here!”
The desire to launch a new producing entity is also motivated by a desire to do material that doesn’t necessarily fit the mission of other companies. Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company does the classics, CenterStage at JCC nearly corners the market on musicals, and Theatre  is committed to the most current new plays; Prince, along with Producing Director Richard McGrew, feels there is room for the Liminal Playhouse aesthetic.
“I want people to start thinking ‘liminally,’” says Prince, laughing. The word is chosen precisely for its playful embrace of ambiguity. The actor-director talks about false binaries and dichotomies as he delineates the intellectual underpinnings of the company, revealing the academic intellect of a man who has taught in the Jefferson County Public Schools for 23 years, but it is his hope that this company will avoid ever being “easily compartmentalized.” Prince goes on, “I want to never be so narrowly focused that we restrict ourselves.”
A slow development seems to be a key ingredient in building a solid foundation. Liminal announced itself quietly, through social media that noted private play readings of the two plays chosen for the first-season, followed closely by announcements of the final cast almost a full year before the 2015-16 season. “Asking actors to make commitments so far in advance, particularly in such an active community, is difficult, and I’m extremely grateful for that.”
That first production, Harry Kondoleon’s Christmas on Mars, with its positioning of a pending birth as a source of spiritual redemption, is a striking example of the Liminal mission. Jon Patrick O’Brien, Victoria Reibel, Michael Roberts and Susan Linville make up the cast, and the play opens September 3 at The Henry Clay Theatre. “I am very excited to be directing a Kondoleon play again, having directed two of his works previously for The Necessary Theatre,” states Prince. ”Few playwrights can send audiences on the kind of emotional wild ride he does.”
The second show will be Sarah Ruhl’s first play, Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce, running March 24 through April 3, 2016. Tad Chitwood will direct this play, which brilliantly combines absurdism, farce, music…and almonds. It is a unique vision of love, attraction, melancholy, and transformation. Richard McGrew has composed an original score for this production, and the cast consist of Brian Hinds, Mera Kathryn Corlett, Laura Ellis, Teresa Willis, Mr. Prince and Mr. McGrew.
It will be one third of what has developed into something of a Sarah Ruhl festival in Louisville, since the production will run concurrently with ATL’s Humana Festival of New American plays, featuring the world premiere of Ruhl’s new play, For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday, as well as Looking for Lilith’s Women’s History Month production of Ruhl’s Orlando. “Melancholy Play was originally intended to be the closing production of our second season,” explains Prince, “everything just seemed to be coming together for that production and everybody was really enthusiastic about doing it, so I bumped it up on our calendar. We didn’t know then that ATL and Lilith were planning these productions – sometimes the theatre gods just smile down on us!”
Prince adds, “Taken together, these two plays should give audiences a good sense of why our mission statement is ‘The Liminal Playhouse embraces, explores and celebrates the ambiguous, and sometimes paradoxical, nature of our shared humanity.’”
Christmas on Mars
By Harry Kondoleon
Directed by Tony Prince
September 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12 at 7:30 pm
September 6 and 13 at 2:00 pm
The Liminal Playhouse
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40203
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.[/box_light]