If there's a motto for the Night Light Collective, Richmond's newest fledgling professional theater company, it may be “Through obstacles come opportunities.” So when it had trouble finding a venue for its 2008 production of “The House of Yes,” the company ended up presenting the show in an actual house.
“That threw some people for a loop,” says Kerry McGee, Night Light's executive director, but it was consistent with one of the company's core objectives: to shake up traditional ideas about theater. For instance: “People expect theater to be a silent affair,” McGee says, “but with ‘Yes’ we kept the bar and kitchen open. If you weren't engaged in the production, you could go get a drink.”
Night Light presents its second production next weekend with the opening of “Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls” at Gallery5. The quirky comic drama sometimes veers into the surreal as it explores the relationships of 11 twentysomethings trying to find their places in the world. McGee says the challenging script fits well with Night Light's collaborative creative process. Ensemble members are encouraged to help shape the production, incorporating elements and situations that arise during rehearsals. “One night, I said that I felt like my character was tap-dancing while crying,” explains McGee. This spurred two of her fellow cast mates to pull out their tap shoes, adding an unplanned dance element to the show. “For us, the process is as important as the performance,” says McGee.
“We enjoy messing around with traditional forms,” she continues. “It can create a lot of problems, but coming up with solutions can be the most satisfying part.”
Many start-up organizations are finding the going particularly rough these days. But the folks at Night Light incorporate working through roadblocks into their creative process, perhaps making them better able — or at least more willing — to weather the trials and tribulations. “We have no money and we all have other jobs,” McGee says, “so — to evoke a famous phrase — we are completely dependent on the kindness of strangers.”
Among those extending their kindness are show sponsor Henley Street Theatre Company and Gallery5, which gave Night Light generous terms on renting space. “We're a group nobody knows with no reputation, so people would have to be crazy to help us. Luckily,” McGee adds, smiling, “some people are crazy.” S
“Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls” plays July 23-26 at Gallery5, 200 W. Marshall St. Tickets are $5-$10 and can be reserved by phone at 340-0115 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.