Out Loud Theatre, one of the new players on the stage of local theater in Rhode Island, is very much home grown. Kira Hawkridge, artistic director of the troupe, said that the collective began as a student group at the University of Rhode Island, from which she graduated in 2012. She and her fellow theatre graduates enjoyed working together so much, they continued to work over the summer after graduation, and banded together for three shows in 2013 at the Matthewson Street Theater in Providence.
One of the things that distinguishes this theater group is the fact that it has no permanent home. Rather, Kira says that following its first season at the Black Box space, the group decided to “embrace being nomadic.”
“We really enjoy going into these different places and transforming them, generating experiences in different locations, packing up and moving on. We made that part of our mission, so that for each project we did, we would have a different artistic team and a different location. It’s really exciting to be able to work with different types of people, and continue to grow and experience these different collaborations,” she says.
Kira admits that the sprawling nature of the troupe’s collaborative journey does come with challenges, but that now in their second full season, they are finding themselves hitting their stride. Her work as an artistic director includes a lot of outreach and communication, working with a generation of new audiences for each show. Whereas artistic directors of resident companies (or at the very least, theater companies with one permanent home) have less to worry about in that logistical sense. But, she says, “the freedom and rewards outweigh the difficulties.”
Although the group hopes to branch out and bring shows into Boston and New York, for now, they are very much still a part of the fabric of the Rhode Island theater scene, which is a closely-woven patchwork of artists that routinely collaborate with one another. The group’s latest collaboration is particularly close to home for Kira, for whom theater is somewhat of a family business. When Out Loud presents Crave by Sarah Kane this month at the URI Providence Feinstein Campus Arts and Culture Program’s PAFF auditorium, it will be one of two productions going up as part of the weekend’s programming. The other production, Hamlet, is being performed by the youth theater collective LaVoce: Theatre That Speaks, and will be co-directed by her parents, Patricia and Allen Hawkridge.
“As I get older, I’m more grateful for the opportunity and experience to have grown up with two working theater professionals. To have this opportunity to work alongside my parents as a collaborator is really wonderful,” Kira says.
It was that collaborative spirit that brought the productions together, as Steven Pennell of the Urban Arts and Cultural Program at the Feinstein Campus asked Patricia (a Rhode Island College graduate) and Kira (a URI grad) to present the shows as part of a celebratory showcase of the state of the arts in Rhode Island. Kira says that while the two shows will have different sensibilities, they essentially deal with some of the same issues: madness and despair. While audiences are, of course, familiar with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Sarah Kane’s Crave is a lesser-known piece. Kane is a playwright with an incomparable edge, one that bled heartily into her work and life: she committed suicide shortly after her 28th birthday. Providence audiences may be familiar with her work from watching the Gamm’s 4:48 Psychosis or the more recent production of Blasted from the Wilbury Group.
In Crave, Kira says, the writing is most nearly stream-of-consciousness, and the characters are unnamed: we know them as A, B, C and M. Their defining throughline is that they all crave “unspeakable desires,” says Kira. There are no stage directions, and the work is very much about the physicality and movement of the actors in a raw space. This fits very well with Out Loud’s aesthetic of “innovation on a shoestring,” she says, allowing the powerful story to tell itself in the most immersive and exposed way possible - something which Kane, no doubt, would have appreciated.
“I think what makes [Sarah Kane’s] work often so scary and brave is that she holds a mirror up to people and makes them look into themselves. That’s something I hope that our audience walks away from this production with... even though it’s abstract, it will connect with them,” she says.
Crave Presented by Out Loud Theatre June 26-28, 7:30pm
Hamlet Presented by LaVoce: Theatre That Speaks June 19-21, 7:30pm URI Feinstein Providence Campus, PAFF Auditorium