There is something magical about open air theatre. Maybe it’s being able to feel a breeze while watching a play, or maybe it’s a human connection that’s been ingrained in us since outdoor performances became so popular back in Shakespeare’s prime. Whatever the reason, there’s something captivating about a stage having audience members on almost all sides and being seated so close to an actor that you can spot an eyelash on their cheek. Whether you’re looking for a date night, a fun way to entertain little ones, or just a way to immerse yourself in local arts, have your own midsummer night’s dream at .
Parallel 45 started its season Thursday with a ribbon-cutting followed by a performance of Hair. The crowd, abuzz with excitement before the ribbon-cutting, chatted in groups with wine and hors d’oeuvres. Many of the guests were connected to each other through the Interlochen Center of the Arts.
The series of plays being put on by Parallel 45 is called a summer repertory.
“It’s summer rotating repertory,” said Erin Anderson Whiting, Executive Director of the Parallel 45 Theatre Company. “So that means you hire one company of artists, actors, directors, designers, musicians. We hire 54. They’re from all over and they don’t know each other.”
Most of the selected artists will live in Northwestern Michigan College dorms with each other through the 7-11 weeks they are here. Visions of summer camp come to my mind and I wonder if it feels like that for the artists.
“They bond almost instantly with each other because they’re spending all day together. Their rehearsals are nine hours a day.”
There are also local interns who are able to gain a wealth of resume-building experience by being involved with the theatre.
“We have interns that are local high school students. So, they have to do a lot of the grunt work, but they also get to be in the plays. We have two local high school boys who are extraordinarily talented and they’re in Bunny Foo Foo. We want to expand that and be able to have more and more interns.”
Artists who don’t mind performing more than one role at a time typically love rotating repertories because it gives them the “juiciness” of performing as more than one character at a time.
“It’s one thing to be a singing in Hair and another thing to be in a Chekhov adaptation.”
The audition process to get into the Parallel 45 summer repertory is a vigorous one, and actors aren’t the only artists who are required to audition. Set designers, lighting designers, costumers and any other artist who wants to be hired for the summer has to send in a portfolio. Being selected to join Parallel 45’s summer repertory is a high honor, not only because of the spectacular work Erin Anderson Whiting and Kit McKay have put into creating it but because of all the diverse talent that applies.
The artists selected to be part of Parallel 45 for the summer will work on or in all the shows. An actor you see in Hair may also be starring in Little Bunny Foo Foo or Stupid F*cking Bird. A variety of shows have been chosen for this season’s repertory to appeal to a large audience.
“I’m excited to be able to give parents something to do with their kids at 11 a.m. on any given day,” Kit McKay, artistic director of Parallel 45 said. “Watching young people watch professional theatre is one of my favorite things. I have two kids under the age of four, and I have basically curated plays just for them,” she laughed.
The summer repertory is great for family-friendly fun, but it also makes for adult fun, too.
Matinees and evening shows will be catered by Blue Goat. There will also be a bar for guests to cool off with a drink while they enjoy a show. Guests will be able to buy food from food trucks that will be parked outside of the theater, and even bring in a picnic of their own, just not booze of their own.
The partnership between Parallel 45 and Traverse City has been working out wonderfully from the start. The amphitheater was available and was the perfect place for Erin and Kit to execute their dream.
“It turned out to be a perfect partnership,” Kit said.
Audience members will be delighted that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Because three sides of the stage are surrounded by seating, anyone watching a show will have an up-close view of all the action.
“We think that theatre can be delightful and meaningful and impactful for anyone. We’re asking people to get off of their devices and come into the woods and experience culture,” said Kit.
Does anything sound lovelier? Whether you’re entertaining summer house guests, planning a creative date night, or finding a way to entertain the kids in the late afternoon, make time in your summer schedule for a Parallel 45 show and experience theatre in a dreamy, not so new way.