There's a new theater company in town, and it's starting with an unflinching production: Neil LaBute's "In a Dark Dark House."
Chris Medina, a local actor and director, is the man behind Funky Little Theater Company.
"I've been looking at it for a while. The space came to me and the opportunity was too good to pass up, so I jumped," says Medina, 29. "I'm excited about creating good theater. I want to bridge the gap between community and professional theater, and create a family instead of a clique. The town's population is half a million, and we should have more than two big companies and three to four smaller ones.
"I feel like there's enough talent in this town that you'll get quality work."
In LaBute's play, two brothers grapple with their childhood. The younger brother (Medina) seeks corroboration on the sexual abuse he believes he suffered as a child at the hands of his brother's (Jude Bishop) friend.
"This show hasn't been done in Colorado at all," Medina says. "It's been done in New York or L.A., and that's it. It's not a fun fluffy piece, but a psychologically twisted puzzle play. I know it's summer, and you want to relax, but I want you to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone."
Betsy Acree-McClenahan will direct the company's first production. She is the owner and artistic director of Attitudes Performing Arts Center and a teacher at CIVA Charter High School.
"I'm a child of rape, and it's a great time to go and direct something that has such significance," Acree-McClenahan says. "It can make people aware that there are survivors and there are a lot of years of struggle. Reading through some of the play, and seeing how the characters dealt with it, it was a time for me to remember dealing with it and thinking, 'oh yeah, that was it, I remember that.' It was an affirmation for what the process of healing is."
"LaBute's bad-boy tendency to play theatrical games has been squelched," writes Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones in 2008. "This is a quieter, darker, more contemplative and seemingly more personal piece of work. But although the tricks are muted, the piece is uncommonly focused. When they write the book on LaBute's career, I suspect this one will reveal more about this fascinating writer than any other of his plays."
Medina grew up in the Springs, and received his bachelor's degree in visual and performing arts from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2012. He teaches in the theater department at CIVA Charter High School, where he's directed "Steel Magnolias" and "The Glass Menagerie," and was recently one of 12 students to be accepted into the masters in theater education program at the University of Northern Colorado. He's been in productions by UCCS Theater, TheatreWorks and Springs Ensemble Theatre, among others.
It took two years of producing "24Seven," an evening of plays written and staged in a 24-hour time period, to raise the funds for the space in the Golf Acres Shopping Center. A hollowed-out storefront has been turned into a black box theater, roomy enough to fit 20 to 50 people, depending on the show, Medina says. Actors, directors and designers can expect to get a small stipend for their work.
The rest of the company's five-show season hasn't been set, though Medina will announce the second production in mid-July. He believes it will be a show just for high school actors.
He intends to produce works that are "new, contemporary, edgy, bold."
"I think the whole concept of the company is great," Acree-McClenahan says, "to present things that haven't been done before in a small intimate space, things that have a social and environmental relevance to them."
Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.
“IN A DARK DARK HOUSE”
Who: Funky Little Theater Company
Playwright: Neil LaBute
Director: Betsy Acree-McClenahan
Cast: Chris Medina, Jude Bishop, Gavriella Meola
Running time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission
When: Opens 7:30 p.m. Thursday,
7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Aug. 3, Industry Night performance on July 15, no show July 13.
Where: Funky Little Theater Company, 1502 N. Hancock Ave.
Tickets: $10, pay-what-you-can on Industry Night with current headshot and resume; 425-9509, funkylittle