by Justin Brady
Over the last several years there has been a surge of new theatre companies trying to put their own unique stamp on Indianapolis. Some last, but many don't. NoExit Performance has been surging ahead of the pack over the last several years through pushing the boundaries of what theatre goers expect. Audiences have proven willing to partake in the adventure following the young company around the IMA gardens, venturing to a rare night out in Lafayette Square for shows at Big Car Service Center, and most recently bringing an original adaptation of a beloved (and spooky) short story to the perfectly fitting Irvington Lodge. Next up, No Exit will be premiering Indianapolis writer David Hoppe's Our Experiences During The First Day's of Alligators at Garfield Park.
Leading the tribe of young innovators since 2009 has been Georgeanna Smith, Executive Artistic Director. Since graduating from Butler University's theatre program in 2007, Georgeanna has figured out how to keep busy doing what she loves in Indianapolis. She works part-time at The Children's Museum as an actor/interpreter, teaches at Young Actors Theatre, and a principal dancer with Pur the Company. Meanwhile, in addition to NoExit she can be seen acting and directing productions with Acting Up Productions, Eclectic Pond, Arden Theatre Union, The Lilly Theatre, among others.
Georgeanna answered my questions about No Exit's role in Indianapolis theatre scene, working with David Hoppe, and her dream cast of a favorite movie remade with local actors.
Sky Blue Window: What role does No Exit fill in Indianapolis theatre scene?
Georgeanna Smith: I think of us a contemporary performance group. Sometimes I hear the term "avantgarde" attached to us. We are the only theatre in town that works site specifically. We are the only theatre in town that specializes in deconstructing work. When we work site specifically, our focus is not just telling the story, it's the whole experience for the audience. They enter an environment, an entire world. When we deconstruct pieces, we try to breathe new life into something people have seen or read before by telling untold tales or from different perspectives.
We have a great relationship with the other theatres in town, and I think we all fill our own niches. NoExit likes to mess with classics. We like to work in non-traditional spaces (we have produced shows at Crown Hill Cemetery, the grounds of the Lilly House at the IMA, the Morris Butler House, the Murphy Building, to name a few.) Several of us are graduates of Butler, where there is a very big international influence in the theatre department, and I think that carries into our work. All of our company members come from very diverse backgrounds artistically. One is a sculptor, one's a dancer, one studied Environmental Science, and the list goes on. We try to bring our different backgrounds and skills to our work.
SBW: Your next show is a new play written by David Hoppe (that you are directing). How did you come about working on the show with David?
GS: David has been a great supporter of my work since my college years. His wife, Melli Hoppe, was a professor of mine at Butler, and I worked with her regularly in Susurrus performances post graduation. David was one of the first (if not THE first) member of the media to cover NoExit. He always is in the audience of our work and he and Melli both have been great friends and sounding boards for the entire company. I really feel like the Hoppes helped usher NoExit to the next level. When he approached us about a new show of his, it was a no brainer that we had to do it. I really respect and admire his work. I think his use of language is so vivid. I was honored he wanted me to be apart of bringing the piece to life.
SBW: Tell us a little bit about the show and what audiences can expect?
GS: The show is site specific. We are really excited to be working at Garfield Park. The piece was inspired by a dream, and I want to create a dream like, blurry atmosphere for the audience. It centers around three main characters in a small Midwestern town that has been over run with alligators. It's a piece about the manifestations of fear, about being adrift, about the human condition.
SBW: NoExit does original works but also takes on classics in bold new ways. What plays into your choice of work?
GS: Nothing is really off limits for us. We like to do newer, off the beaten path type shows, but we love to do classics. We look for stories that have something underneath them. When I directed "Antigone" (2008, 2012) I thought that the story of the dead brothers was a compelling piece of the puzzle, so I kept them on stage the whole time, even though they are dead at the start of the show. I grew up on "The Nutcracker," and I was struck by how totally creepy the actual story was (if you don't think so, google the origin story. Terrifying.), so when I directed it (2011, 2012) I wanted to bring out the unsettling nature. We look for things that whisper something deeper to us. Something we can play with.
SBW: Final question: If you could recast the leads of any movie with local actors - what movie would you choose and who would you cast?
GS: I would do Newsies. Ben Asaykwe would obviously be Jack. I think Constance Macy would be a great Ann Margaret. Then I'd round up Sam Fain as Spot, Matt Goodrich as Kid Blink, Scott Russell as Bill Pullman, Chuck Goad as Pulitzer, Lisa Ermel as the token girl in the movie (sarah?), Ryan Mullins as Crutchy, and Scot Greenwell as one of the Scabbers. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you better rent it right now. It changed my 11-year-old life.
Our Experiences During the First Days of Alligators
World Premiere by David Hoppe
May 2-4, 9-11, 16 and 17
2505 Conservatory Dr
For tickets, visit www.noexitperformance.org