Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Conversation With: Fourth Room Theatre

Iowa City - Fourth Room Theatre is opening the rarely-produced Shakespeare play Cymbeline this weekend, and they're bringing it to Corridor theatre-goers for free! (See more on the production in this post.) Fourth Room is a relatively new addition to Corridor theatre; in the past couple of years, they have produced Closer and Parallel Lives, both of which met with success. Recently, Iowa Theatre Blog took a moment to find out more about their current ambitious project and the company behind it. We spoke with Fourth Room core members Matthew James and K. Michael Moore, who can be seen as Iachimo and Posthumus, respectively, in Cymbeline.

L-R, standing: Avonique Tipsword as the Queen,
Mark McCusker as Cymbeline, Matthew James as  Iachimo
L-R, seated: K. Michael Moore as Postumus, Ottavia De Luca as Imogen

Iowa Theatre Blog:  What kind of theatre moves you? What kinds of shows do you like to work on?

Matthew James:  I am drawn to theatre that creates its own world through imaginative collaboration and successfully shares the experience of that creation with the audience. Regardless of genre, theatre that seeks to tell a tale honestly, with story, relationships and connection as its focus, fascinates me profoundly. I seek a theatrical experience that affects me emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually, whether laughing like a loon or crying like a baby.

ITB: How did the project start?

James:  We planned for an August 2012 Opening; The Fates had something else in store. Thanks to the dedication and passion of namely Angie and Ottavia, (and healthy recovery of the latter) it was back on the table and we’re able to see it realized in 2013 – with what we hope will be a magical experience for the audience. The idea for the free event was Rachel and Angie's and everyone was on board and ran with it. We are fortunate - the confluence of events these last 18 months brought us to a much deeper understanding of the script and vigilance to see it produced. This round we also held community auditions and have brought into the mix other actors in the area, many we've never worked with before. 

ITB:  Tell us a bit about Cymbeline. How did you choose this show?

James:  For me, it was to see Ottavia play Imogen, and Angie’s love of this show. They both saw the innate beauty of the script, what Shakespeare sought to do and its importance.

K. Michael Moore:  Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare's least produced plays, which we found odd because it contains some of his most poetic language and beautiful, flawed, extremely human characters. Our production is a fairy tale, blending the beauty of the Bard's language, a charming outdoor location, and very dedicated performances into a magical world where fate, choice, and love play into each other like thread in a tapestry. No character is perfect, and each is strengthened through their journey into a deeper sense of their own place, power, and sense of Self.  We hope the audience will join us to share in that journey.

ITB:  What do you have planned for the future?

James:  Oh, you never know what we will do next; what is certain: whatever that project may be, we learn from previous experiences and are continually working to push ourselves artistically. And we hope you join us in our next adventure!

Moore:  One of our goals is that this production will be a starting point for an annual Free Theatre tradition. We are very excited by this opportunity, and all decided Cymbeline would be a great stepping stone to achieve that goal. We probably won't produce only Shakespeare as our free annual event, nor could we possibly afford to only do free shows and nothing else, but we feel strongly that an annual free theatre event is a great opportunity to give to and share with the community. 

ITB:  The inevitable question: there are so many theatre groups in the area. What makes Fourth Room unique? Where do you see your niche in the Iowa City community?

James:  I don’t think that we are trying to fill a niche, nor is there one needing to be found and filled in The Corridor. True, there are many theatre companies in this area all serving their respective niche with great success. I hesitate to see us attempt to sew ourselves into a dress that doesn’t really fit and we didn’t really want. Fourth Room has varying personalities, script interests and we all enjoy the experience of working with other theatre companies in the area. Because of all of that, we each seek projects in and out of "The Room" which will help us grow. We don’t seek to be unique – we just want to work with each other and the community on scripts that capture our imaginations and incite reaction.

Moore:  We believe very strongly that the Corridor is blessed with an abundance of theatre lovers and supporters, and that those supporters will continue to love and enjoy theatre in all the venues, groups and practitioners that come their way. One of the joys of theatre is sharing it - unlike other art forms, it is a bonding experience that creates an indelible, but temporary, bond between artist and audience. Fourth Room hopes to strengthen and grow in this fashion, attract more lovers of theatre, and share with those we already know and love.

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