A local group of individuals in search of an avenue to pursue their love of theater has decided against packing up their belongings and moving to the bright lights of the big city in favor of starting a professional theater company in small-town USA.
Established in March 2015 as a nonprofit organization, The Perennial Theatre Company, 242 Patrick Ave. in Urbana, will introduce itself to the community this weekend during its first live theater production.
“As young professionals who love this town, we did not want to have to move to a place like New York or Chicago to participate in professional theater productions,” said Amanda Rockhold, marketing coordinator for The Perennial Theatre Company. “Urbana is a wonderful town with a theatrical history, and we saw no reason why we could not bring a professional theater right here to Urbana.
“Not only will our organization provide professional entertainment, but it will give the community a more modern theater experience,” she added.
Instead of a traditional theatrical setting like that of the Gloria Theatre, the nonprofit organization has transformed its home in Patrick Plaza into a black box theater.
“A black box theater is a bare performance space, usually a moderately-sized open room, consisting of a movable stage, seating area and lighting system,” Rockhold said. “In our black box theater, the audience sits very near to the stage, creating a more intimate atmosphere and experience. With a stage that is able to be moved, we have the capability to create a unique ambiance for each production, equipping us to fully harness our creativity.”
Rockhold said the company includes individuals from Champaign County and beyond..
“We wish to not only expose the talent of Champaign County, but also attract talent from other areas,” she said. “At this time, we welcome anyone who wishes to be part of our productions.”
Individuals interested in helping the nonprofit organization fulfill its mission of bringing passion for the performing arts to Champaign County and the surrounding area can contact Kohl King at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our black box stage will give both young and seasoned thespians a place to call home,” Rockhold said.
When it came to choosing which play would serve as the debut performance of The Perennial Theatre Company, the group decided that from the start, it wanted to show the community it’s not afraid to tackle story-lines that may be a bit uncomfortable for some.
“We at The Perennial believe in staying authentic to the human condition, and sometimes that means going beyond a happy ending,” Rockhold said. “The only way to show the dark spots of humanity is to shine a light on them.
“We want people to know that not every show will be extremely controversial, but The Perennial will produce works which will provoke thought, feeling and awareness,” she added.
Written by “Rosemary’s Baby” author Ira Levin, “Veronica’s Room” focuses on a young woman’s struggle to find reality.
“While out on a date, a young college student finds herself impersonating the deceased sister of an elderly woman suffering from extreme dementia,” Rockhold said. “As the charade unfolds, the girl begins to lose her grip on reality as her entire identity is put into question. With a harrowing ending that will no doubt have you questioning the nature of reality, ‘Veronica’s Room’ is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The Perennial Theatre Company will perform three showings of “Veronica’s Room.” Showtimes are 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (doors open at 6 p.m.), and 3 p.m. on Sunday (doors open at 2 p.m.).
Admission to the show is $10 for senior citizens, veterans, and college students and professors. For all others, the cost is $15.
With seating limited due to the nature of a black box theater, individuals interested in attending the show are advised to reserve their seats by calling 937-896-1511. Any remaining seats will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis prior to each showing. Cash will be the only accepted form of payment.
“We would like to note that this show contains material that is not suitable for anyone under the age of 16,” Rockhold said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.