So, a theater company walks into a bar...
That's not an opening line to a joke. It's actually a new site-specific theater company that's presenting its inaugural production at Nightshop and Fat Jack’s this weekend. The company plans to carve its own niche in the Twin Cities by staging works where the plays are set.
Their first production is a series of six short works all set in a bar. “Raising the Bar” runs at Nightshop at 5 p.m. Nov. 17 and at 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at Fat Jack’s.
Nomad Theatre Company takes its plays off the stage and out into the community to create a unique and immersive theater experience. Founded by Bloomington-Normal theater vets Connie Blick and Cristen Monson, the new project is aimed at reaching new audiences.
“I think a lot of us look out from the stage and wonder where the young people are, where’s the more diverse audience?” Monson said. “And so, I think a part of what we wanted to do is to go places where audiences felt more comfortable.”
“Our traditional theater spaces are very formal. You go in, you sit, you have to be quiet, you watch the show and then you leave. So, we want to create new audience members and maybe this can be the gateway. They come and see one of our shows in one of our locations and they think ‘Hey! Theater is pretty cool! Let’s go see something at Heartland or Community Players.’”
The site-specific locations lend themselves to a vibrant theatrical experience, said Blick.
“What’s wonderful about theater is that you’re there, in the room with these characters and experiencing these stories. And what Nomad does is take their stories off the stage and into the locations that they are meant and intended to be in.”
“So, for an audience in a theater, you may connect,” Blick continued. “But this really allows audiences to connect with those stories and connect with those characters because you’re more of a fly-on-the-wall, to see that happening where it’s supposed to be.”
The tag line for Nomad Theater is "Theater That Moves," a play on words that indicates Nomad’s intention to emotionally move people. But with theater with no home, that moves around from location to location, there come challenges, Monson admitted.
“We’re going into two bar spaces—at Fat Jack’s and Nightshop—for the first performance. And it’s, 'What are we going to do about the lighting, what are we going to do about the sound? We don’t need a set because we’re in the bar, but where are the actors going to sit? Where are they going to change if they need to change clothes? Do we need to rent chairs?'"
“So, there’s a lot of logistics that way that could be challenges. But that’s kind of why Connie and I wanted to do this. As artists, we want to be a little more challenged and take more agency in what we’re doing and create the kind of theater we want.”
“Raising the Bar” features three plays by local authors. The other three come from writers out-of-state.
“Some of them are funny, some of them are irreverent, some of them are touching and sweet,” said Monson. “So, there’s a little bit of everything in there.”
Future productions from Nomad Theater include stagings at a local art gallery, which is going up in February, and the Sprague Super Service station on historic Route 66.
“That’ll be called 'Are We There Yet?'" Monson said. “It’s all plays about travelling and what happens when you travel.”
“We’re actually taking submissions for plays. We’re already putting it out there that we would love to have local playwrights write us a play.”
“Raising the Bar” runs at Nightshop at 5 p.m. Nov. 17 and at 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at Fat Jack’s. Both are in downtown Bloomington.
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.