Fresh Energy

Homegrown Theatre draws on local talent

May 23, 2012 at 7:31 am

Leah Strasser and Tyler Smetts have lived in Cincinnati. In fact, they’re first cousins. She’s an actor; he’s a writer. 

They’ve been talking about creating a year-round theater company that draws on homegrown talent, and the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe seemed like the perfect moment to take the next step by undertaking a production. To emphasize their concept, Strasser and Smetts are calling the group they’ve cofounded “Homegrown Theater.”

They’re both young enough to bring their passion for creativity to bear, and they’ve partnered with Alex Parks, who knows the technical side of theater (his day job is with Lightborne, a Cincinnati video production company) and is serving as their producer. 

Strasser says, “We intend to keep our projects local — writers, artists, musicians and designers — and we plan to demonstrate innovative ways to use modern technology, expanding our understanding of theater in the 21st century.” She expects they will focus on presenting new scripts, starting with their Fringe show, The Doppelganger Cometh and Overtaketh, written by Smetts. 

“It’s a modern-day fantasy,” Strasser explains, “a ‘regrettable adventure,’ you might say, about a young woman who loves to read fantasy novels and who gets swept into an alternate reality which isn’t quite what she had in mind.” The play’s description in advance publicity for the Fringe suggests that the group aims “to disrupt the line between the fantastic and the everyday, while broadening the medium with a healthy dose of surrealism.” By way of explanation, Strasser says their Fringe production will include “a big, fake smartphone that displays a Twitter feed from another dimension.”

Beyond the Fringe, Homegrown plans to remount The Doppelganger with some added bells and whistles. Strasser points out that Fringe productions have to be reasonably compact and portable, since they share venues with other shows. 

Support for their project has been generated by a campaign. Their planned budget for the production was $1,900; as of May 19, they had already exceeded that amount on the fundraising site by $500. So it’s clear that at least 42 donors are already interested. 

Cincinnati offers a fertile environment for creative performing artists, and the annual Fringe is a catalyst that brings out the best in “homegrown” talent. 

The Doppelganger Cometh and Overtaketh will be presented at the Emery Theatre on June 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9.