By Bill Hirschman
The tiny Thinking Cap Theatre, which built its reputation on experimental, provocative and socially-conscious work, plans to double its programming and staffing while retrofitting a new venue in Fort Lauderdale that can cater to twice the nightly audience.
The scrappy company expects to enter its fourth year this winter with a slate of four plays on its “mainstage” season, but will add a second prong of “Nightcap” theater works that will vary wildly in format.
“It’s very exciting and very daunting,” said Artistic Director and founder Nicole Stodard.
She plans to announce details about the specific location within a few weeks, but she said the company is overhauling a performing space in downtown Fort Lauderdale south of Las Olas Boulevard.
Thinking Cap has been performing mostly at Empire Stage, a compact venue with 55 seats located north of Sunrise Boulevard that rents to several companies such as Island City Stage. The new space will allow several seating configurations with room for up to 99 patrons. Stodard said.
Her ultimate goal is to have year-round programming in the space. The Nightcap series will include staged readings, film screenings and stripped-down productions of works by the playwrights represented in the mainstage series, echoing the season’s theme “Double Vision,” Stodard said. Some works might have runs reduced to 6 or 12 performances. Some pieces may only be 30 minutes long. Some might start at the traditional 8 p.m., others at 6 or 9 p.m.
The mainstage season includes:
Feb. 7–March 1: The Florida premiere of Pool (No Water) leading Royal Shakespeare Company writer-in-residence, Mark Ravenhill. Stodard described it as “an honest and visceral play about the fragility of friendship.”
May 1-18: The U.S. premiere of Hot Dog by Sarah Kosars is listed as an “absurd, dark comedy about the parent/child relationship and the treatment of old people in our society.”
Aug. 1-17: Church is a “slyly subversive drama” by Young Jean Lee, a leading experimental theater artist in America.
Oct. 9–Nov. 2: A unique gender bending take on Oscar Wilde’s The
Importance of Being Earnest.
Stodard is ramping up to the challenges by expanding the staff. The new managing director will be Mark Duncan, Assistant Director for the Division of Performing & Visual Arts and Associate Professor/Chair of Theatre & Arts Administration at Nova Southeastern University. The new director of education is Scott Douglas Wilson, who serves on the faculty of New World School of the Arts. Veteran actress Carey Brianna Hart will be the resident stage manager, and Renee Elizabeth Turner will serve as music coordinator.
They join the current core of Desiree Mora, company manager; Andy Herrmann, literary manager; Chastity Collins, production manager/resident scenic designer, and Axy Carrion Bannon, production assistant/children’s theater coordinator/makeup designer.
Thinking Cap’s past seasons have been notable for a challenging vision that embraces progressive theatrical stagings of edgy works. Many of them dealt with the evolving landscape of sexual identity and relationship issues such as the plight of lesbians in repressive African countries in Waafrika. At the same time, Stodard’s background in classical literature has led the company to do revisionist overhauls such as the Restoration play, The Rover, whose playwright Aprha Behn is considered among the first major female literary writers.