Bruised Orange Theater Company: Hypertension
In Budapest in 2003, Clint Sheffer, then a guest artist at the Studio K Theatre, began hatching a plan for a new theater company back home in Chicago. The idea was to mix the progressive and esoteric theatrical ideas he was encountering in Europe with a more traditional American theater. What he found upon returning home however, was a surprise.
"I came to Chicago and found out, that already existed," Sheffer admits. "There were so many small companies and they were doing just that." So, rather than either forge ahead blindly or abandon the idea altogether. Sheffer took some time and consulted with friends until they arrived together at a new idea.
The plan was to bring new plays from concept to the stage, allowing the company to emphasize what Sheffer calls the "great risk and great trust" that's essential to Bruised Orange Theater Company.
When Sheffer thinks about what defines Bruised Orange the central idea is one of conflict, "I think of us as a pugilist theatre company. We bring together different ideas of tone and genre...having an actor play against type, having a sound designer do our lights. The more tension there is the more exciting it is to us."
This has certainly been borne out in the works they've created in their five-year history. From their first show, Sheffer's own Lakefront Property, produced illegally in a small storefront in Ravenswood Manor, to the now fully legal re-visitation of that piece in a 200 seat renovated church, this is a company that thrives on hard choices and big risks.
In Sheffer's words, a Bruised Orange play is recognizable by being "disturbing, but in a good way. Like having your teeth worked on: you know it's going to be better for you in the long run, but it's extremely uncomfortable and you wish it would stop."
At the same time, this isn't a company afraid to have fun or entertain. For years now they've held a weekly performance of the Chicago Reader's "I Saw You" ads, personal ads of missed romantic connections across the city. Currently held on Wednesday nights at 8:00 at the Town Hall Pub in Lakeview, Sheffer is proud of the way these hour-long shows of melancholy and comedy serve as a fun and engaging introduction to the company.
The "I Saw You" series also points to another unique aspect of Bruised Orange's mission, a desire to reflect the city they call home while still staying in contact with global and universal truths. Their seasons alternate between three different cycles of expanding geographical resonance: Chicago, National, and International. And Sheffer concedes how central their "Rust Belt Midwestern" identity is to the company members.
"We always try to struggle against the need to be polite, the need to get along, to contain emotion. There's a tension between that disposition and making interesting art."
Find out more about Brusied Orange Theater Company by visiting their website, becoming a fan on Facebook, or following them on Twitter.
You can read more of Theatre In Chicago contributor Benno Nelson's writing at The@er (http://the-at-er.blogspot.com)
Read the other articles in Benno Nelson's "Full Storefrontal" series that focuses on small theatre companies around Chicago on the Full Storefrontal page.
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