A Noise Within, Los Angeles’ respected classical repertory theater company, enters its third year in Pasadena with visions for the future now rooted in experiment and experience. Some lessons have come hard: The company’s 2011-12 inaugural season opened to mixed reviews with a Caribbean-themed “Twelfth Night.”
Co-Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and his wife, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, had framed that first season around the diversity of possibility inherent in live theater. They soon realized, however, that putting on shows in a brand-new facility with state-of-the-art technology, a 285-seat house, and an expansive thrust stage, would require extensive exploration of the new venue’s potential.
“It was really shocking to us when we actually got on that stage,” Elliott said. Expecting to be able to replicate the production process so well-honed for the company’s 20-year digs in an old Masonic Temple in Glendale, “we had the sudden realization that, ‘oh, my god, we can’t do it the way we did it before.’ That was a steep learning curve,” he said, “and not a very pleasant one at the time.”
Since then, “it’s been about catching our breath, letting the dust settle, beginning to truly feel that we are home — and finally feeling it within ourselves,” Elliott said.
So the “lost and found” thematic framework of A Noise Within’s upcoming 2013-14 season seems particularly apt.
It begins Sept. 14 with Shakespeare’s “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” a harrowing, fantastic journey in which a man searches for the answer to a riddle and for lost loved ones. The play’s appeal as fantasy, said Rodriguez-Elliott, who directs, is grounded in an envisioning of life and love restored.
“Look at the great losses in your life,” she said, “and if those were miraculously given back to you what would that look like?”
In “The Guardsman” (Oct. 5 to Nov.r 30), a Hungarian stage star schemes to rekindle the passion that he fears his wife has lost. This comedy of disguise and marital misadventure by Ferenc Molnár “is that little jewel that for whatever reason hasn’t been often produced,” Rodriguez-Elliott said. “It’s delightful — we call it our date-night play.”
Next up, a stark change of pace: Samuel Beckett’s masterwork, “Endgame” (Oct. 19 to Nov. 23), a seemingly post-apocalyptic, “nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” tragicomedy, that “on some levels,” said Elliott, “is not lost and found — it’s lost and lost. It’s really about relationships and the struggles we have in trying to come to terms with death.”
Following the company’s traditional staging of “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 7 to 22), Dickens’ classic tale of loss and redemption, the season continues with “Tartuffe” (Feb. 14 to May 24). The production marks the company’s third exploration of the biting Moliere comedy in which one family’s domestic tranquillity falls victim to a manipulative scoundrel and religious hypocrisy.
Rounding out the season are Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” (March 8 to May 11) — by the time Macbeth and his wife have decided they are going to go through with taking the throne by murder, Elliott said, they have become lost to themselves and each other — and the William Inge drama, “Come Back, Little Sheba” (March 29 to May 17), which is “very much about relationships lost and found,” said Rodriguez-Elliott.
In looking for thematic connections in disparate works, she said, “sometimes it’s not the first thing you think of, but whether it’s deliberate or organic, when we’re scheduling the season, we find interesting parallels. And as I’m hearing us talk about these plays,” she added, “it’s that very human thing that they have in common: that we only experience the value of life when we either lose something or come close to losing it. Sometimes when we lose it, there’s no return, but sometimes there’s the opposite, too.”
Despite the Elliott’s “steep learning curve,” A Noise Within nearly doubled its subscriber list during its inaugural year, and saw a respectable increase in single ticket sales. The company ended 2012 with nearly 1,900 subscribers, “very close to year one,” Rodriguez-Elliott said. “People talk about that second year dip that happens” after first-year audiences come to “try you out,” she said. But after two strong seasons, “attendance has been good and our donors continue to respond.”
The Pasadena theater, said Elliott, “continues to be a journey of possibility. At first we thought, we’re here, and now we can continue doing what we’ve gotten used to doing. As we were re-energized, we said, no, we have to keep finding new ways of using the space, growing as an organization, building our staff, doing things with the building that we had to put on the back burner when we first moved in.
“It feels like a fantastic springboard to be able to finally reach the potential of the organization.”
Where: A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd. (the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue)
When: Opens 8 p.m. Sept. 14. Repertory schedule: 2 and 7 p.m. Sept. 15 and Nov. 24, 8 p.m. Sept. 20, Oct. 11 and Oct. 30; 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 21 and Oct. 12, 2 p.m. Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7. Ends Nov. 24.
Cost: from $34.
More info: (626) 356-3100, http://www.anoisewithin.org
LYNNE HEFFLEY writes about theater and culture for Marquee.