By Bill Hirschman
Outré Theatre Company, a peripatetic troupe that has specialized in contemporary plays and musicals with an edgy sensibility plus reimagined classics since 2011, is planning to produce one last show and then close in the spring, its artistic director said.
The final production will be A Skull in Connemara by Martin McDonagh, March 13-22 at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton’s Sugar Sand Park, said Skye Whitcomb, the director-actor-educator who co-founded the company.
“It’s a show we had wanted to do for some time, so we figured it would be a good one to take our bow with,” Whitcomb wrote in an email.
Audiences and critics felt the company’s work was unpredictably varied in its quality, sometimes thrilling, sometimes disappointing. But no one doubted its consistent pride and courage in its pioneering commitment to insightful, challenging, thought-provoking work rarely seen in the region.
Whitcomb wrote, “We’ve had a good run. Eight years of good shows, not-so-good shows, travesties-that-shall-not-be-named, and great shows. I’m proud of the fact that we never half-assed it and that we always swung for the fences.”
But there was also a question of whether Outré’s vision landed with local audiences.
He wrote, “It also seems as though the kind of work we do is not what local audiences want at the moment. Even as the quality of our work has increased (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Christians), our audiences have dwindled, no matter how much we spend on advertising. Given the choice between altering our mission and ceasing production, we chose the latter… But it’s time for someone else to take up that torch—maybe New City Players, or Measure for Measure, or a company we haven’t even heard of yet. And when they do, I’ll applaud them to the very echo that should applaud again.”
Among its successes were a scalding The Normal Heart that resulted in Conor Walton earning a Carbonell nomination; a nightmarish tale of paranoia and xenophobia, Back of the Throat; Avi Hoffman in the one-man screed against war, An Illiad; a vibrant musical deconstructing American history, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; the early Jonathan Larson musical tick…tick…BOOM!, and the two-character musical about the Leopold and Loeb murder Thrill Me which brought a Carbonell nomination to Mike Westrich, and was so successful that it was revived.
On the other hand, there were head scratchers such as a distaff Reservoir Dolls and a plodding 1984.
When the company debuted with a large-scale musical based on a classic jazz poem, The Wild Party, Whitcomb said, “Outré’s stated mission is theatre is a living art form with the power to re-imagine and re-examine ourselves and the world around us. We are a theatre that nurtures the creative spirit of individuals and our community through original and established works, utilizing a variety of mediums to engage the souls and imaginations of the artists and the audience. We strive to create theatre, which stimulates thought, provokes reflection, and encourages activism.”
One challenge throughout its existence was that it changed venues over and over across Palm Beach and Broward counties, making it hard for fans to find them. Performances were first staged at Mizner Park Cultural Center, but later appeared at the Abdo River Room at the Broward Center with challenging acoustics, the gymnasium-like Pompano Beach Cultural Center, the tiny Showtime Performing Arts Theater in Boca Raton, the intimate Sol Children’s Theatre in Boca and other locations.
Whitcomb further explained the ultimate decision:
“Of course, funding is always a struggle, and since we have never had significant donors, most of the fiscal responsibility fell on the shoulders of the creative team, and over a period of time, it has just became too much. There are few affordable venues available for small theatres, and the costs of venue rental have risen dramatically over the past few years.
“Personally, I’ve missed being on the stage, rather than behind it,” wrote Whitcomb who is currently playing Duncan in New City Players’ Macbeth. “While I enjoy directing and producing, the amount of time it consumes left me with little opportunity to do much else.”