Serenbe Playhouse Creates Theatre Using the Available Landscape – Part 2

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Working With Mother Nature Isn’t Always Easy

Cat And Chicken

Cat (Ben Isabel) and Chicken (Jessica Miesel) quip with pop culture references.

Having such a unique stage and “set” presents several challenges.  The obvious obstacles are heat, lightning, rain and wind. “Lighting is not good with actors in the water,” Clowdus states as he studies the sky with thunder rumbling in the distance. Luckily for this performance, the storm will stay in the distance, but as the actors comment, storms have already toyed with the performance.

“After the storms a few weeks ago [late June], the stage went from two inches deep to eight inches deep, and now it is a little less,” states Shuler. The water’s depth adds an interesting dynamic since the height of the water affects how easily the actors are able to move. Emma Jackson mentions, “Dancing in the water is a unique challenge. There is resistance; you have to push through the water with more force.”

In addition, as Crigler points out, just having the stage in water of any depth creates a challenge. “The stage is slick, and it is interesting with the quick shifts during the play. I run around the lake at full speed and then, go into the water.” He works to seamlessly make the transitions. 

Keeping the Spirit of the Serenbe Community

None of these performances would be possible without the support of the Serenbe community. Clowdus is the first to give the community its due praise. “The community is super supportive. They are constantly giving, giving, giving,” he comments.  Just as he is proud of the community, the community is proud of Serenbe Playhouse. I could see the pride gleaming from the faces of a few residents sitting in front of me at the show.   

While he gets approval to perform in each of his locations, it seems more like a formality than a drawn out decision process.  He tells us that his main directive is to, “leave it like you found it,” and, staying true to the community’s ideals, he does.

Both the playhouse and the community have a respect for the environment. This quaint village is extremely green. Residents have a community garden that supplies fresh vegetables, and their houses are energy efficient.  To keep with this ideal, Serenbe Playhouse works to reduce its carbon footprint by using nature as the stage and set.

“We utilize what we have to have a small carbon footprint.  Everything we do is as minimal as possible to be green as possible,” he states. “For Shipwrecked!, we will use 80% LED lights that use a fraction of the typical energy of theatrical lights.” 

Future Looks Bright for Serenbe Playhouse

The Ugly Duckling, Andrew Crigler

Andrew Crigler plays Ted, the "ugly" duckling.

Using the available scenery is nothing new for Clowdus and the Serenbe Playhouse. When they produced The Jungle Book, the woods around Serenbe became the jungle, and for Ordinary Days, the courtyard behind the shops was used. The musical made use of a fountain and the back of the shops to create its set. The upcoming production of Shipwrecked! will do the same as it will be performed in Serenbe’s Farmer’s Market.

There, the venue will become a street market for the production with actors moving around and interacting with the audience in a way that seems reminiscent of street theatre. Like The Ugly Duckling, Shipwrecked! will provide a distinctive viewing experience. “By integrating the audience and breaking the fourth wall, the audience becomes another character,” he comments.

While the past season was a labor of love as he worked to complete graduate school at the University of South Carolina, Clowdus, with the MFA program complete, can now put more focus on expanding Serenbe Playhouse’s production schedule. In addition to wanting to use other spaces within the community, he also hopes to produce a Halloween and Christmas production. 

Atlanta’s theatre community hosts a variety of diverse theatrical experiences from experimental theatre and black box productions to traditional Broadway musicals and original productions. Not many, though, have the opportunity or the landscape to provide the one-of-a-kind theatrical experience that Serenbe Playhouse offers. 

The Ugly Duckling runs weekends until August 28, 2011. Shipwrecked! will run August 4-27. For specific times and tickets, please visit the Serenbe Playhouse website or call the box office at 770-463-1110.

By: Kenny Norton