On Stage

Reinventing the Classics

Providence Monthly Magazine ·

Theatre as a medium has always encouraged re-creation and experimentation. In their seven-year run, the Wilbury Theatre Group has offered a space for actors to redesign famous shows and develop their own original work. The group’s 2017/2018 season – which opens in September with their production of The Caretaker – will continue their legacy of unique performances.

That uniqueness, according to Founding Artistic Director Josh Short, is one of the Wilbury’s defining characteristics. “We’re just trying to pull things apart and look at them differently,” he says. “It’s the kind of place where audiences can see brand new stuff or see old stuff in a different light.”

With this goal in mind, the group’s artistic process often includes working outside of the status quo. “I feel like there’s kind of an easy way to reproduce the same musicals and shows over and over again, but we try to take a new approach,” Josh says. He was especially excited about their take on Spring Awakening last season, because the group was able to bring a fresh perspective to such a well-known musical.

For 2017/2018, their slate of productions includes The Flick, Neighbors and The Pirates of Penzance. While Josh refers to all of the shows as his “children,” he is especially excited for their September production, The Caretaker, in which he and his brother will be playing main roles.

The troupe chooses plays according to what inspires them; The Caretaker, for instance, is particularly poignant given our current political climate. “In The Caretaker, the themes of disillusionment and loneliness really speak to the working class issues that led Trump into power,” Josh explains. “So, without being overtly political, the things that are happening in the news come out in the work we do.”

As much as Josh is looking forward to his acting role, however, directing is his main passion. “I love being in the rehearsal room with all of the actors and making something engaging and surprising for the audience,” he says.

That focus on audience participation is another central part of a Wilbury performance. “It’s not a place where you sit in the audience and are ignored by the actors for two hours,” Josh says. “You’re part of the experience, and we need you.” To further audience engagement, the troupe actively works to create a piece of art that makes everyone part of the show. In the past, audience members have been moved around on wheeled platforms and invited to interact with characters between acts.

These immersive experiences also complement the Wilbury Theatre Group’s goal of making theatre both accessible and affordable. “We do a pay-what-you-can for every show, so there’s the financial affordability,” Josh says. The group also provides discounted student rates and gives away 100 tickets to veterans for every show, making their productions open to every theatergoer. “Overall, our goal is to become an accessible place for artists and for audiences who are interested in more adventurous or outside-of-the-box performances.”

wilbury theatre group, the caretaker, the flick, neighbors, the pirates of penzance, spring awakening, marrissa ballard, theatre, experimental theatre, josh short, providence, providence monthly


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