One stage works to support a variety of worlds during Actors Theatre’s Humana Festival
The cast of "We've Come to Believe," part of Actors Theatre of Louisville's 2019 Humana Festival of New American Plays. Photo by Jonathan Roberts.
By Audrey Boyd
Floyd Central High School, Class of 2021
Most of the productions in this year’s Humana Festival of New American Plays are in Actors
Theatre of Louisville’s Bingham Theatre, an environment that can cause viewers to shift
previously-held expectations because its architecture strays from the classic stage-right and
The room holds an arena-esque feel — with stacked seating of up to 331 people
surrounding the four sides of the lowered stage.
During the festival, a glowing rocket ship appears in “We’ve Come to Believe.” A mausoleum takes center stage in the serious play titled “The Corpse Washer.” And in “How to Defend Yourself,” the stage becomes a gym that is at times transformed via multicolored light into a dance floor. All are vibrant and unique in their displays.
The transformations from one storytelling set to the next are ensured under the supervision of Actors Theatre’s Associate Technical Director Braden Blauser.
Blauser said this unconventional set design can be a challenge for new designers. For the
festival, Actors Theatre has one designer to create the sets. Blauser said this helps all
production in the festival have coordinated designs so the small details with set-changes and
other technical aspects run more smoothly.
Whereas most plays in traditional theaters have 2-D set pieces and curtains as backdrops, these do not: The staff must determine a way to create a convincing environment without obscuring the view of the stage. They have to use minimal pieces to set the scene.
Gabriela Ortega, Ariana Mahallati and Abby Leigh Huffsetler in "How to Defend Yourself," part of Actors Theatre of Louisville's 2019 Humana Festival of New American Plays. Photo by Crystal Ludwick.
The Bingham Theatre can host multiple productions in a single day during the Humana Festival, with as little as an hour between each show to completely reinvent the stage. Blauser said a team of six carpenters floods the area as soon as the house clears to tear off and replace the flooring. He oversees the entire process, keeping the machine well oiled with every passing week.
There are some challenges to this theater-in-the-round. Actors often begin their lines facing
one direction of the stage, but then finish in another to spread out a collective experience more evenly.
Still, performers and audiences can experience intimacy in the setting of the Bingham Theatre and during the Humana Festival; they get this while watching new works.
Arash Mokhtar and Abraham Makany in "The Corpse Washer," part of Actors Theatre of Louisville's 2019 Humana Festival of New American Plays. Photo by Jonathan Roberts.