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ACT tries 'black box theater' to attract younger participants

Mitchell Area Community Theatre is welcoming a new style of theater to attract new, younger actors and directors.

Black box theater will make its debut Thursday, June 14, and run through Sunday, June 17, in Mitchell with the first performance "All in the Timing," including six one-act humorous plays by American playwright David Ives.

Shows start at 7 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre in Mitchell and tickets are $5.

Black box theater, also known as experimental theater, is a style of theater that originated in the 1920s in Europe. Black box theater shows are edgier than the musicals and dramas typically staged throughout the ACT season. The minimalistic style of theater also uses a bare set and simple lighting. There is no extravagant costuming. The ACT board of directors chose the name Shadowbox Theatre for these kinds of upcoming performances.

"It's theater that is more based on character building," said Vicki Hansen-Hickey, who will direct the first set of black box theater shows. "It is where up-and-coming directors and actors can cut their teeth."

Carm Roster, director of the Pepsi-Cola Theatre, said that the ACT has been looking for ways to attract a younger group of actors, actresses and directors and develop their skills in a small venue before they tackle the larger stage.

"We want to create a spot where young adults from mid-teens to those in their 30s would have a theater spot of their own and where they could put on shows that would be more to their taste," she said. "It's something that's more edgy and speaks to what (the younger generation) is facing."

Hansen-Hickey dabbled in black box theater as a student in New York City. Her first shows included ones from the Ives set that will be shown later this year. The skits include "Sure Thing," "Words, Words, Words," "The Universal Language," "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread," "The Philadelphia" and "Variations on the Death of Trotsky."

Hansen-Hickey said the shows are "humorous and fun."

Roster added that black box theater shows will hopefully be done three times a year through ACT.