Have you ever watched a painter paint? Ever been in a room or recording studio while a band or a songwriter arranges a new song?
Sometimes, being involved in the process of creating art can lead to a better understanding, and a new appreciation for the finished product.
A new Fayetteville theater company is inviting the public to experience the science behind their art on Friday, July 23. Artist’s Laboratory Theatre will host a meet-and-greet and “science fair” at their rehearsal and performance space behind Foghorn’s on College Ave.
Artist’s Laboratory Theatre is a collaborative ensemble theatre company dedicated to the process of experimentation. The new company is the vision of Artistic Director Erika Wilhite, who recently moved to the area with her husband, a graduate student in the University of Arkansas MFA program. She, along with Co-Artistic Director Alan Schwanke, began organizing the company in April.
“It is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Wilhite said of her decision to start the company in Fayetteville. “I love this area and the support of the art community here. It just felt like the right time and the right place to do it.”
Artist’s Laboratory Theatre will debut its first theatrical production next month with the Merri Biechler original play “Bombs, Babes and Bingo.” The event this Friday night is intended to give the public a chance to meet the artists and attendees, and provide a peek behind the scenes at the new company’s unique preparation process.
For their first production, instead of starting with the script, the blocking, and the scenery, Wilhite said that they decided to examine the relationship of art versus science by applying scientific principles to the script to see what shakes out.
“It all starts with a question and we try to answer that question. In the lab, we explore through research exercises and experiments. We are making time and space for seeing the main elements of the play, to dig deeper,” Wilhite said.
Their rehearsals are called “labs,” which are basically a series of exercises intended to explore all the aspects of a story, from the characters and their motivation, the story lines, and the subtext behind them from every angle possible before the work on the actual script begins.
Many of the performers are not classically trained actors, coming from a wide range of artistic disciplines outside the theatre. Poets, painters and dancers, in addition to the actors involved, make up their casts.
The goal with Artist’s Laboratory Theatre is to really devote the time necessary to experiment and explore characters, story lines, and subtext, without the time and budget constraints typically needed put on a theatrical production.
“The experimentation and the amount of time we spend not doing the show, that is the difference,” Wilhite said. ” I created the performance lab because I want to let go of the pressure of product and take my time seeing the things I am looking at before I turn out to the world and share directly in that precious relationship of art and spectator. I want to gaze longer in the solitude and safety of the creative environment. There is value in taking my time and taking risks within the boundaries of my time.”
Of course, it all makes more sense when you see it in person. The science fair on Friday is a chance for the public to get a better understanding of this unique rehearsal process before the show begins next month. It all begins at 8 p.m. and is free to attend, but a $5 donation at the door is recommended.