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Bringing theater to non-traditional audiences throughout NYC in shelters, low-income senior centers, and correctional facilities.
Bringing theater to non-traditional audiences throughout NYC in shelters, low-income senior centers, and correctional facilities.
Bringing theater to non-traditional audiences throughout NYC in shelters, low-income senior centers, and correctional facilities.
129 backers pledged $10,432 to help bring this project to life.

About

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The Light Fantastic: Theater for Non-Traditional Audiences

$10,432

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Our Mission

Will Shaw, Sylvia Kates, a blue unicorn, Jedadiah Schultz, Per Janson, and Cherie Corinne Rice
Will Shaw, Sylvia Kates, a blue unicorn, Jedadiah Schultz, Per Janson, and Cherie Corinne Rice

We are The Light Fantastic Theater Company, a group of professional theater artists bringing free performances of The Glass Menagerie to nontraditional audiences in NYC this December. 

We are a new theater company dedicated to performing imaginative, vibrant productions for people who often don’t have access to live theater. We will perform in homeless shelters, low-income senior centers, correctional facilities, and other nontraditional venues throughout the five boroughs of New York City. We will perform in cafeterias, meeting rooms, and gymnasiums; we will perform with live music, with all the lights on, and with minimal sets; with no stage, we will perform on the same level as our audience, who will be seated in the round. Through the shared act of imagination, we aim to illuminate what unites us.

Our company includes artistic director Per Janson and company members Sylvia Kates, Cherie Corinne Rice, Will Shaw, and Jedadiah Schultz, graduates of the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Program and the Yale School of Drama.

Will Shaw and Cherie Corinne Rice in rehearsal
Will Shaw and Cherie Corinne Rice in rehearsal

Our home, New York City, is legendarily full of contrasts. We are home to some of the wealthiest individuals and institutions in the country, and also to some of the poorest congressional districts. New York is the country’s theater mecca, home to some of the most inspiring theater work in the country, and yet a significant portion of NYC residents can’t afford tickets to witness it (the average price of a Broadway ticket, for instance, recently topped $100). We wanted to find a model for making high-quality theater could put us in conversation with all of our neighbors

We found what we were looking for in Minnesota, where for the past 25 years Ten Thousand Things Theater Company in Minneapolis, under the leadership of Michelle Hensley, has developed a brilliant, joyful, efficient model of making extraordinary theater for non-traditional audiences. Their motto says it well: “Because theater is richer when EVERYONE is in the audience.”  

Our artistic director, Per Janson, recently had the opportunity to assist Michelle Hensley on a Ten Thousand Things tour in the Twin Cities, and we will be putting into practice all he learned from the kind, funny, wise artists and staff of Ten Thousand Things, and their perceptive, receptive audiences, on this tour.

The Glass Menagerie

Sylvia Kates and Will Shaw in rehearsal
Sylvia Kates and Will Shaw in rehearsal

Our first production is The Glass Menagerie, the semi-autobiographical classic by Tennessee Williams.  We chose this story because it invites everyone's imagination to its family table, as each of the Wingfields, in the midst of the Great Depression, strives to break free of the constraints that surround him or her, as they try to balance (as Will Shaw says in our video) their obligation to their family with their obligation to their dreams.

Though he laces the play with levity, Williams does not offer easy answers to the looming challenges the characters face, nor does he favor one character over another when they spar, as they often do. We believe people who come to see the show, who will perhaps have faced similar challenges to these characters, will be able to see themselves and their loved ones reflected in the play, as we do. 

Tennessee Williams calls for abundant music in the play, and our composer, Ethan Philbrick, has created beautiful original music inspired by the poetry of two of Tennessee Williams's favorite poets, Hart Crane and e.e. cummings, to accompany the play (all music in our video is from the show).

Set designer Jacques Roy has designed minimalistic, elegant, fire-escape-themed set pieces, and costume designer Michelle Ridley has contributed costumes (not pictured in the video) that help us tell the story simply, clearly, and beautifully.

We enjoyed a residency at the Stonington Opera House in Maine this summer to develop the show, and performed selections from the play at a nursing home there, and we are now ready to share it with New York.

Our first tour

Sylvia Kates and Jedadiah Schultz in rehearsal
Sylvia Kates and Jedadiah Schultz in rehearsal

Between December 2nd and 16th, we'll pack up two cars with set pieces, costumes, artists (and their armfuls of imaginary props), and bring the show to non-traditional venues in all five boroughs of NYC. 

If you'll be in NYC, we'd love for you to join us for a show at one of our non-traditional venues (our website, currently coming into shape, will have show info soon)!

Where Your Money Will Go

Your donation will make this tour possible. With your help, we will be able to pay our collaborators a small stipend for their hard work and cover the costs of producing this play for non-traditional audiences without charging admission. Your donation will help pay for the following (detailed budget available on request):

  • Actors
  • Stage manager 
  • Composer 
  • Accompanist 
  • Set designer & set materials 
  • Costume designer & costumes 
  • Performance rights to the play
  • Volunteer accident insurance
  • Transportation and NYC parking for theater van 
  • Flyers, posters, programs, and other materials to spread the word

Risks and challenges

We are fully prepared to learn from the challenges that this kind of theater will bring. Per witnessed, for instance, while working on tour with Ten Thousand Things, the myriad ways in which performing in nontraditional venues is unpredictable (kids running in and out of the room, medical appointments taking place in the same room as the show, one of the actresses' mothers repeatedly interrupting the show to speak with her), and how TTT performers repeatedly rose to the occasion with grace and good humor.

That is one of the great joys of doing this kind of work: it requires nimbleness, openness, humility, a sense of humor, and a genuine curiosity about what the audience contributes to the show on a given day. We will hone those skills daily in our work. The interplay between audience and actor is more vibrant in this model of theater than in any other mode we have witnessed, and we can't wait to meet our audiences in NYC.

This project is just the beginning for us. We intend for this production of The Glass Menagerie to have a life beyond this first tour and for this theater company to have a life well beyond this first production. This means creating and sustaining a partnership with people who believe in this work as much as we do. Your contribution will help us serve our community and get to know, and get to be known by, our neighbors, so that for subsequent productions, we will be able to apply for grants and foundation support as well. We thank you for any contribution you can make to help us get started on this journey!

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    Our heartfelt thanks

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    Handwritten unicorn thank you note

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    Handwritten unicorn thank you note
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    Signed photo from our tour

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    Handwritten unicorn thank you note
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    Light Fantastic T-shirt (also has unicorn)

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    Handwritten unicorn thank you note
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    Light Fantastic tote bag (also also has unicorn)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Handwritten unicorn thank you note
    +
    Light Fantastic T-shirt
    +
    Light Fantastic tote bag (three unicorns coming your way!)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Oodles of unicorns:

    Handwritten unicorn thank you note
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    Light Fantastic T-shirt
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    Light fantastic tote bag
    +
    Beautiful glass unicorn so you can start your own glass menagerie

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Funding period

- (29 days)