Community High School Theater Provides New Space For Acting Troupe

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GAMUT Troupe tries out the new stage at Community High School.
GAMUT Troupe tries out the new stage at Community High School.

by Gene Marrano

The local professional theater group known as GAMUT is in rehearsals now for a play that guarantees to be a bit different – as is the venue. “Six Characters in Search of an Author” will be the first production GAMUT will perform in its new space – the 150 seat June M. McBroom Theater located inside the new Community High School on Campbell Avenue downtown.

Six Characters will run on two weekends, October 6, 7, 8 and on Oct.13, 14 and 15; tickets are $15 / $10 for students. A Groupon ad that will run near the show dates will offer savings as well.

There was big excitement for GAMUT last week—the first rehearsals were held inside the new theater space. GAMUT artistic director Miriam Frazier, who is also directing the play, said the troupe is dedicated to mounting “under-produced plays that challenge the actors and the audience.” Frazier works for Virginia Tech when not directing.

GAMUT stages three plays per season with ensemble casts. According to Frazier, a “very unique” fundraising event is on tap for Valentine’s Day, then playwright Edward Albee (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is his best known work) will be in the spotlight next spring.

The Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello debuted his satirical “tragicomedy” Six Characters in Search of an Author in 1921. At least some of the audience in Rome was less than thrilled, as they reacted with shouts of “madhouse!” directed towards the stage. Pirandello was credited with being an early practitioner of absurdism.

Six Characters in Search of an Author recounts the fate of a family of characters left unrealized by their author. Desperate to come to life, the characters interrupt the rehearsal of another Pirandello play and demand that the director and cast stage their story.

According to the website sparknotes, Six Characters is also a key exercise in what Pirandello termed il teatro dello specchio or “the mirror theater,” a play that turns a mirror onto the theater itself. The version GAMUT will tackle is “much more modernized,” said Frazier about an adaptation originally staged in Boston. The play did make its way to Broadway back in 1922.

Kris Laguzza, a veteran of several GAMUT productions, is back in character as The Director for the Pirandello play. “Surface wise, you’re kind of going, what’s going on here?” said Laguzza, whose husband Ross is also an actor and a member of the Big Lick Conspiracy troupe. “You see all the different [facets] of theater. It’s really quite interesting to be a part of. It’s Pirandello’s comment on acting [and] playwrighting.” Laguzza enjoys her turns with GAMUT; “they really do plays that are unique in this area.”

Patrick Kelly is an attorney when not acting. He’s The Father in Six Characters. “It’s a lot more abstract than even [work] that GAMUT has done in the past. It’s very much … a theater of ideas, about the process of creation in an artist’s life. It’s extraordinary circumstances – these characters that come from the page and ask someone to finish … their work.” The Father is not real, although he thinks he is, but a “construction of someone’s mind,” said Kelly.

“It strips down theater to all its component’s parts,” noted Frazier during a break in rehearsals last week. She calls Six Characters a “pivotal piece” that helped shape live theater afterwards. She’s hoping that local high school and college theater students will also come to see this important work.

Frazier said the troupe’s new home at Community High School, after recent stops at Studio Roanoke and Jefferson Center, is “great for us.” Since GAMUT stands for Gypsies and Misfits Unknown Theater, “true to our nature we’ve moved [several times]. But Community High School has really created a home for us. It’s a nice sized theater and it’s new. We look forward to being a permanent fixture here.”

For more information or to reserve tickets for Six Characters in Search of an Author, call 521-6049.