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Elements Theatre Collective in New Hands, But Retains Same Mission and Energy

Moulin Rouge Sing-Along fundraiser set for Saturday at Museum of Contemporary Art

Elements Theatre Collective was founded by Sara Rademacher and Emily Jewell in 2011 with the following mission:

“Our mission is to provide free, accessible and professional quality theater to under-served communities. Our goal is to incite the cultural growth of our community by crafting poignant theatrical works that spark discussion and cultivate human connection. We provide opportunity for artists and other creative people to develop and showcase their skills while creating a strong sense of community in art.”

From their first production, boom, in August 2011, which took place in a private Eastside home’s backyard, the patio of Left Coast Books in Goleta and an empty swimming pool, Elements has been bringing edgy, fresh and well-produced theater to the Santa Barbara community.

After two solid seasons of innovative offerings, Rademacher and Jewell both decided to relocate to New York to pursue their dreams, and handed the Elements reins over to Artistic Director Mary Plant-Thomas, Executive Director Rob Grayson and Managing Director Terry Li.

“Elements has grown much bigger than Emily and Sara thought possible,” Plant-Thomas said. “We now have a staff and a Board of Directors, and just got approved for our own nonprofit status. We have planned an entire season around a central guiding concept. Things are growing.”

It seems that with the solid foundation laid down by the founders, the transition has been smooth.

“The experience has been great.” Plant-Thomas said. “Rob has been involved with Elements from the very beginning in a variety of capacities. I got involved on their second production, Gruesome Playground Injuries, and shortly thereafter became managing director. Emily and Sara have been so trusting with us. They're also still on the board, so they still have a say in where Elements goes, but they know that we all have the mission of Elements first and foremost in our minds.”

Elements is different from most theater companies in that it produces its shows in various alternative spaces.

“We make it a goal to partner with new local businesses for each production, so we're always performing in different spaces, for different audiences,” Plant-Thomas said. “Our hope is that this means we are always reaching new audience members and maybe even audience members who don't ever go to the theater We prioritize accessibility while continuing to push the envelope. Each of our productions has been a very different type of play — different from each other and from other plays being produced locally. We intentionally look for these pieces.”

Elements’ current season is centered on the theme of "Gender & Sexuality," and began in August with Sweet Nothing, a staged reading of an unpublished work by Stephanie Timm. This intriguing and thought-provoking dark fairy tale was brilliantly performed by Jenny Marco, Stephanie Farnum, Terry Li, Justin Stark and Sean Mabry at Left Coast Books for two sold-out shows.

Next up for Elements is a Moulin Rouge Sing-Along fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly Contemporary Arts Forum) upstairs from Paseo Nuevo. The main event is a sing-along screening of the film Moulin Rouge. Included with the $20 ticket price are a drink and a slice of pizza, the film screening and a live performance by Vocal Motion, UCSB's all-female a cappella group.

“This is not your standard fundraising event,” Li said. “We'll show one of the best love story films of all times — Moulin Rouge, of course — and encourage people to sing along to their favorite songs. We'll create our own little Parisian cabaret. There will be a Best Dressed Contest, for the best Moulin Rouge-inspired outfit, we'll be offering a sweet prize for that. In addition, there will be a silent auction featuring more great prizes from local businesses, such as Blush, Bikram Yoga, Ca' Dario, Granada Theatre, Massage Envy and lots more. These items will make great presents, if you happen to be eager to get started on your preparations for the holiday season.”

Click here for tickets and more information.

Elements’ season continues with the following:

» "The Basic Elements: A 24-Hour Experiment" — Directors, playwrights and actors will come together, create several short pieces and present them, fully produced within 24 hours. The production will be the evening of Dec. 7 at Fishbon. Registration is open, and all are encouraged to participate!

» King of Shadows by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa — An urban thriller loosely inspired by the story of the Changeling Boy in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. It explores issues of homelessness through a magical realist lens. Directed by Kate Bergstrom, it will run Feb. 7-23.

» Musical Revue — This will focus on the theme of Gender & Sexuality, and will be directed by Rob Grayson. Coming April 2014.

» Orlando, a new adaptation by Sarah Ruhl of Virginia Woolf's masterpiece — This new adaptation brings Woolf's text alive as we watch a story that spans century and gender. This will be Elements' big production of the season and will be directed by Plant-Thomas. Coming July 2014.

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

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