We all know the type. The visionary. That hopelessly optimistic friend, living in a fantasy world, with their head stuck in the clouds. It is easy to be skeptical in the face of such a dreamer; knocking them down a peg or two might actually do some good – they could use a harsh dose of reality.
In truth, perhaps we should not rush to judgement. Sometimes a little idealism can go a long way. Even the more sensible among us might learn a thing or two from the stargazers out there, and from the romantics we all hear about.
Fortunately, right here in the heart of downtown, there is a space where both dreamers and skeptics can coexist. Where the bold and audacious stand side-by-side with even the most sober of mind, and make magic.
Welcome to Space 55 Theatre Ensemble.
Located in the Evans Churchill neighborhood, Space 55 is a boutique playhouse dedicated to developing new, under-represented and innovative theatre. It is a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. Now in its 11th season, it remains a place for risk-takers who are not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to content and accessibility.
Still, its artistic director, Duane Daniels, knows a thing or two about the real world. He brings a lifetime of high-level acting experience to the stage, including film and TV. Daniels also runs his own acting studio next door, Actors WorkHouse, where he attempts to impart onto his students the essence of performance art as he know it to be.
Daniels’ goal is to wean professional actors off of the popular allure of method acting, a technique of acting where the actor endeavors to realize complete emotional identification with the part they play. Instead, his classes offer a more archetypal methodology, something a bit more grounded in reality. The idea is to stress the impact ones acting has on the audience, rather than the effect a particular role is supposed to have on oneself.
“I love a good magic trick,” Daniels explained, “you want the audience to believe that it’s real. But the magician should not fall for the trick too. It lessens the illusion. And it’s about the audience, not them.”
Regardless of the underlying method, Daniels is proud of the fact that Space 55 is uniquely situated to showcase a variety of exclusive acts. “The theatre only seats 50 people,” he said, “so, it is a very small, intimate setting. But, that also means that we are not beholden to a 1000 seat audience. It allows for more experimentation and risk that way.”
One experiment rising in popularity at Space 55 is “The Storrs Objection,” a comedy show hosted by local attorney, and comedian, Matt Storrs. Storrs is a lawyer by day, professional heckler by night. His show consists of him fact-checking other comics’ material right in the middle of a set. Storrs’ dry sense of humor brings a sense of pragmatism to the acts. And his ability to rebut even the best jokes ensures no comics make it out unscathed. It is what Storrs refers to as, “aggressively accurate comedy.”
One need not be a professional cynic to distinguish between good and bad comedy, but The Storrs Objection will leave you rolling in the aisles under any scenario. It is a win-win, and Storrs seems to provide just enough introspection to make even the comics themselves chuckle.
Notably, Space 55 will be presenting two world premieres this season, along with the American classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Edward Albee. Its most recent production, “Night of the Chicken, The Curse of the Crusty Claw,” is a Live Radio Play that opens Jan. 13th.
Whether a spell-binding screenplay, or the most fervent measure of hard truth around, Space 55 will always showcase a different kind of visionary; a new type of dreamer. And we can rest assured knowing that no matter how skeptical we may be, this is a space where even the harshest of critics might just get lost in wonder and disbelief.
If You Go
What: “Night of the Chicken, The Curse of the Crusty Claw”
When: Jan 13, 2017 to Jan 29, 2017, Friday and Saturday Nights at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Where: Space 55 Theatre Ensemble, 636 E Pierce St, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
Cost: Adults $15, Students and kids $10, On Sundays Kids under 10 are FREE
For more information, visit space55.org.