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I wanted to boldly go where I have never been before, so I went to the Bold Choice Theatre, a natural choice for a former playwright and a wannabe Spock Trekkie. What I found was an intergalactic experience that would be impressive beyond Earth and the normal alienation felt being a member of the third rock from the sun.
Since the Bold in Bold Choice Theatre stands for “Battling Obstacles Living with Disabilities,” I was expecting a unique theater experience when I surveyed the presentation at the Shrine Auditorium last week. What I did not expect was an audio-technical cosmos that far surpassed my old Hollywood standards of an equity waiver 99-seat house. I was blown into outer space by the beauty, lighting, music, and the feel for a transformative genre that could capture and transport me.
The actors had no problem memorizing and delivering full monologues as well as one, two, and three-liners. The set design required light changes and costume alterations as they moved through the galaxy from planet to planet. The costuming was to die for, from bright red sequin-studded hats to Oompa Loompa-type, borderline Teletubby alien characters to centurion soldiers. There was even a queen from one planet who could have challenged a modern American diva in meanness (Ann Coulter).
The play was about what two planet travelers experienced while visiting other alien species. They ran across planets where they were chained into submission, their freedom was threatened, and where the two lead actors had to negotiate with heads of planets to salvage their fate. The sci-fi adventure had an undertone to this continual mixture of alien exposure: exploring our selves in relation to others. Who are we? Where do we belong? Why are people afraid of the unknown? Whom do we want to share our world with? Are we really different?
The website lists the aliens as space invaders, astronauts, space queens, and evil overlords. The actors had poetic pauses during the production to share interpersonal experiences and the challenges of being disabled. These monologues were woven into the script through the characters, but the threshold behind the presentation was very intimate. You could sense the audience absorbing the magnificence and courage of the actors as they not only took on the characters but made them their own. They shared obstacles they had to overcome in everyday living. I credit the directors, who included these vignettes not to sound like an infomercial but to keep them part of the play’s theme.
There was nothing amateur about this production. Braden Sorenson, the technical director, says the actors rehearse once a week due to their schedules. There are actors who come from many different programs. Coordination can be difficult, so they reserve Tuesdays for rehearsals. The actors help develop the script with the Bold Choice staff. Since rehearsals are only one time per week, the actors have to make the most of line memorization, collaborating on blocking and stage technique. In addition, the set design, music, and lighting have to be developed. An LCD projector is used, connected to an 80-foot cable and laptop. The soundtrack, which was phenomenal, is geared to audiences of elementary, middle school, and high school youth. “We want music that is fresh for the school audience that will excite the kids,” said Braden Sorenson. “Ultimately, we want kids to get the message of the play, but they are having so much fun during the play, with the music they will connect to it more.”
The theater troupe also has a new sound system with power-mixing capabilities. They can only do one production a year due to the time put into it. However, the production is available for presentation all year. Normally, Bold Choice Theater gets bookings year-round. They have two scheduled performances at Harbor City International School in January and other future commitments.
What ordinary people dream about, Bold Choice Theater and their actors are already doing. This is a committed group of performers making a name for the fine arts with an emphasis on respect for disabilities. Quoted on their website, www.choiceunlimited.org, a middle school student said after observing a play, “Since you came everybody has been more respectful—not just to people with disabilities, but to everybody.”
Bold Choice Theatre is part of CHOICE, unlimited, a community-based program that offers job opportunities, training, employment planning, and recreational activities for disabled clientele. If you would like to have the presentation done at your school, church, nursing home, or college, please call 218-724-5869. There are travel costs for the production.