The Brown Box Theatre Project, a mobile performance group that delivers free dramatic performances to diverse audiences across the country -- including in central Indiana -- begins its summer season. WFYI’s Terri Dee spoke with Executive Artistic Director Kyler Taustin, who explained how his childhood experience provided incentive for the program and how his troupe interprets a literary classic.
WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: How did Brown Box Theatre get its start?
Kyler Taustin, executive artistic director, Brown Box Theatre: We wanted to bring theater to communities with little or no access to the performing arts. I was born and raised in an area with little or no access to professional theater. While I was lucky enough to be able to go to the theater with my family, I really realized that the area that I was from just did not have that access to this cultural medium. So, Brown Box was all about packing things up into a brown box and taking it where it's needed.
Dee: That is a cool concept. Kyle, what is the uniqueness of the Brown Box Theatre Project?
Taustin: We are a turnkey theater company. We do not have a brick and mortar where the audience comes to us. We come and activate non-traditional theater spaces. We are mostly performing outdoors, but also have worked in and with historical sights, museums, parks and recreation departments. So rather than needing a space where you have lights and stages and sound, we bring it with us. That allows us to go directly into communities that don't have that infrastructure, and to activate non-traditional spaces to bring high quality professional performing arts.
Dee: Kyle as the country is inching towards normalcy after the pandemic, which hit the arts community particularly hard, what strategies are being implemented to get your audiences back in the seats?
Taustin: We feel that we have a duty and obligation to the communities that we serve and all of these new communities we're serving in Indiana, to be able to go into the spaces and provide entertainment for folks who desperately want to get out of their house and who desperately want to be around their community. But in a safe, safe way to bring your own chair events where people can socially distance themselves as they see fit if they wish to and can remain safe as they want. Brown Box Theatre Project’s tour will feature a Shakespeare classic, “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Dee: How will The Brown Box Theatre Project give audiences a fresh look at this timeless work of art?
Taustin: Brown Box and our team have always worked really hard to make Shakespeare available to everyone making sure that it's not this elitist style of art. So, to bring it off the page that we all know it from maybe in high school or in an academic setting, and really make it fun and enjoyable and a true experience for everyone involved.
This play is about a group of soldiers coming back and realizing that life is not so black and white. There's trickery, jealousy, deceit, masquerade, all there inside of a love story. Coming back and realizing that the world has nuanced and that there are gray tones in between. So, I think not only is this piece just a good time, but it is also I think quite relevant to the current society that we live in and trying to find the connective tissue that we can amongst people with different ideologies and perspectives.
So, this play, I think, with a diverse cast of young, excited artists are going to be able to come in and bring some fun, witty banter, some deception, and just physical and linguistic comedy which makes it a really great time.
Dee: Wishing you much success on your tour this season and thank you for sharing your information today.
Taustin: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.