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Preview: Director Opens Up About Out of the Box Theatre’s ‘BARE: A Rock Opera’

Out of the Box Theatre Co.’s fifth season opens this week with BARE: A Rock Opera, directed by the company’s founder and artistic director, Samantha Eve.

Set in a co-ed Catholic boarding school, the plot concerns a clandestine relationship between two boys and the controversy that ensues when their secret is discovered.

Eve took a few minutes from her busy opening week schedule to share some thoughts.

Justine Sutton: Why did you choose this script?

Samantha Eve: When I look at new shows for Out of the Box, the first thing that draws me in is usually the music. I fell in love with this score years ago when I was studying at NYU, and it's still as powerful and engaging to me as it was then. Next, I think of our mission statement and how well the show represents it: to introduce new, edgy, contemporary musicals that challenge pre-conceived ideas of what musical theater can be. As a rock opera, BARE fits the bill perfectly.

JS: How is this similar to past OOTB productions, and how is it different?

SE: Shows like Rent and Spring Awakening have definitely paved the way for BARE, and like many of our past productions, BARE touches on a lot of very relevant, conversation-inspiring, occasionally racy subjects that you don't really expect to see in musical theater. One of the main features that sets this show apart from others we've done is that BARE is a rock opera, consisting solely of contemporary musical theater music with a pop/rock flair. Even lines that are spoken are done so in time, underscored by our five-piece band. This has been a challenge in a lot of ways, but it also allows music to really be the outlet through which the characters express themselves and tell their story, which has been fascinating to explore.

JS: Who will we see? Any new faces?

SE: There are a few familiar names. Julia Kupiec, who was our Carrie last year in Carrie the Musical, is playing Ivy, a female student with a less-than-pristine reputation with the boys. Tad Murroughs, who was John in John & Jen in 2012, is playing Jason, a well-liked athlete, top student and all-around American teen keeping a big secret from his friends and family. Anne Guynn, The Storyteller in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson last year, is playing Claire, the mother of one of the students. Christopher Lee Short has been with us for a long time, first performing in our 2011 production of Assassins, and takes on the role of the Priest.

The rest of this large cast is entirely new to us, which is great. We hold open auditions for each show we do, and it always thrills us to find new actors. We have actors coming from Dos Pueblos, San Marcos, Bishop Diego, Laguna Blanca, Santa Barbara City College, UCSB, PCPA and Moorpark College to fill the cast of St. Cecilia's students, so it's a wide-spread group.

JS: What particular challenges and rewards have you found in this production?

SE: It's a very young cast, the youngest only 16. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to cast the roles in this show as age-appropriately as possible. It's a story about the trials of adolescence, and rather than go the Dawson's Creek route with 30-something actors trying to relive those awkward days, I felt — and still feel — that the story is far more powerful and real coming from the mouths of actual teenagers.

It's a mature show with a lot of adult content, and we've held them to the same expectations that we would with adult actors: Be at all rehearsals on time, memorize their lines, learn their harmonies and their blocking without hand-holding ... except they also have school, SATs and ACTs, homework, volleyball practice and college applications to juggle. Scheduling has been more difficult than in the past, but this cast is so extraordinarily passionate about their art and this production, it's been very rewarding to see them not only rise to those expectations, but surpass them.

JS: What effect do you hope for it to have on audiences?

SE: When people see the show, we want them to leave talking about the themes of the show and the production itself, humming the music and thinking about the questions the show has proposed.

Where & When

BARE runs Nov. 6-16, Thursdays through Sundays, at Center Stage Theater. Tickets can be purchased online by clicking here or by calling the box office at 805.963.0408.

A portion of the proceeds from the show will go to the Pacific Pride Foundation to assist with its mission of advocating for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community of Santa Barbara.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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