Large theatre houses are an excellent method of seeing live mega productions—especially the musicals. The stages generally have sizeable square footage while the backstage ceilings can accommodate the various “drops” of scenery, props and other items that enhance what is happening onstage to create new settings. Plus, the seating capacity enables adequate space for everyone who wishes to see the show.
Spectacular productions such as “The Sound of Music,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Oklahoma” and “Rocky Horror” are all staples at larger theatre venues.
Something can also be said for the smaller theatres, often referred to as “intimate theatres” or a “black box.” With the intimate theatre experience seating is rather limited, but the audience is usually only inches away from the actors, the set and the action.
“Providing a production at a smaller theatre provides a more personal setting,” said Kevin P. Kern, assistant professor of performance at the University of West Florida. “But the joy of these venues is that they depend less on the spectacle and concentrate more on the story.”
Two local intimate theatres in the Florida Panhandle are the Loblolly Theatre and Theatre West.
The Loblolly Theatre has produced plays continually since 2000. While most traditional theatre houses encompass performances on two consecutive weekends and then close the show, the Loblolly generally offers production runs of four to 10 weeks and will often extend show dates. Located at 1010 N. 12th Ave. in Pensacola on the second floor (Suite 211) of the old Sacred Heart Hospital building—or what locals refer to as “the castle”—the Loblolly is quite cozy with its 50-seat surroundings.
Currently, the theatre is continuing with their annual Halloween-themed series—all of which share the name “Fortuna” in the title. This year’s offering is the new play “Tea for Two-na.”
“The Halloween season is a classic symbol of man’s rise and fall, and rebirth of the spirit,” offered Yolanda Reed, artistic director at Loblolly. “This play is a huge challenge in a way that expresses group creativity.”
“Tea for Two-na” basks in the Halloween spirit in the style of the cabaret. The narrative centers on a salon whose employees are very late. As substitutes take over, they must deal with the necessary or pressing entertainment issues as well as political overtones and gossip. Along the way, music becomes entangled into the storyline as well as subtleties, humor and satire. Add in a love ballad and the entire show becomes one whammed-together experience rather than a story.
“The intensity of this time of year allows so much that can be done in different directions,” explained cast member Lisa Goodness. “Whether we focus on the moon, or spooks, or even evil happenings, the season of spirits is funneled into this play.”
The show dates are Oct. 8-10, 14-16, 22-24 and 29-31. Evening performances begin at 8 p.m. while Sundays offer a 3 p.m. matinee. Tickets are available through the theatre’s phone number at 439-3010. The entrance to the theatre is accessible through the doorway adjacent to O’Zone Pizza Pub. Because of expanded set pieces, this show will only allow 26 seats per show, so reservations are encouraged.
Other cast members include Patricia Simmons and Frances Hinely. It should also be noted that this show is for mature audiences.
Whereas the Loblolly just celebrated its 10th anniversary of operation, the 70-seat Theatre West is in its inaugural season. Located off Blue Angel Parkway and Sorrento Road, the theatre is located at 9732 Sidney Road, about one mile from the back gate of the Pensacola Naval Air Station. The building is in a newly renovated church facility.
“We had cosmetic changes that had to be done on the inside and we extended the stage area 18 feet,” said Rick Burroughs, executive director at Theatre West. “Plus, there wasn’t even a parking lot. Churches make for great theatres.”
The upcoming production is the hilarious “Murder in the Magnolias.” This play is a parody of characters and plots from almost every Southern play imaginable, with the essence of “Gone with the Wind,” sprinkled with the flavor of Tennessee Williams.
In “Murder in the Magnolias,” Colonel Rance Chickenwing has unexpectedly died and left the secret of his buried treasure to his manic relatives to uncover. Among his relations are a schizophrenic poet, a lawyer whose only client is an alligator, a bowling ball juggler, several women who have various life problems, plus a meaty sheriff, a hurricane and loads of man-eating plants.
“This is a really fun Southern spoof. Everyone will recognize the majority of the characters,” Burroughs continued. “The script is not only incredible, but is also designed to make people laugh themselves to death.”
The audience is rarely allowed to come up for air amidst all the insanity presented onstage, especially when the play becomes entangled with the mystery of a death or two.
The set builders at Theatre West do a great job with its cozy and intimate feel. This is a compelling whodunit comedy/murder mystery with a resounding Southern charm laced with lunacy amidst a talented cast.
Show dates are Nov. 5-7 and 12-14. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday shows begin at 3 p.m. For tickets, call the reservation line at 912-4087, or e-mail email@example.com.
LOBLOLLY THEATRE PRESENTS “TEA FOR TWO-NA”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8-10, 14-16, 22-24, 29-31
WHERE: Loblolly Theatre, 1010 N. 12th Ave., Suite 211
PRESENTS “MURDER IN THE MAGNOLIAS”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, November 5-7 and 12-14
WHERE: Theatre West, 9732 Sidney Road