MIAMI— Miami Little Theatre’s next big show, “The Shadow Box,” will be making an appearance at the Coleman Theatre in February 2016 with casting auditions in early January.
“The Shadow Box,” written by Michael Cristofer, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and scored two Tony Awards in 1977, one for Best Play.
The MLT production will be directed by Phillip Shamblin and Aaron Smith.
Co-director Shamblin first became acquainted with “The Shadow Box” while a student at the School of the Arts in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“After sifting through several scripts in search of a monologue to take to the state acting competition, I ran across ‘The Shadow Box’ and immediately connected with the Mark character,” Shamblin said. “Back then, I identified with his character because he was younger and kind of a lost soul. I felt the same way and I had connected with him at that time in my life.
“From my first read, I hoped that someday I would have the opportunity to bring ‘The Shadow Box’ to the local community in a way that would do the material justice.”
Shamblin had asked Smith to co-direct the play with him and the two have worked together on “DeathTrap” in MLT’s previous season. The two will be directing MLT’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” next year.
“I was excited when Phillip asked me to co-direct ‘The Shadow Box,’” Smith said. “The show isn’t tech-heavy. Its success relies on the strength of the acting. We have discussed and brainstormed the show for over a year.”
“Aaron and I worked together last season in ‘DeathTrap,’ and it just worked really well,” Shamblin said. “We are alike enough and different enough to see things in different ways and balance each other out. We read each other without even talking.”
Shamblin said that MLT has performed “The Shadow Box,” once before, but it was several years ago. Shamblin has been acting with MLT for more than 20 years and said that being an actor gives him better insight as a director.
“I understand what it’s like to be on stage and I understand as an actor what I like to receive from my director,” Shamblin said. “I try to do that when I’m directing.”
In “The Shadow Box,” three terminal patients dwell in separate cottages on a hospital’s grounds.
The three patients are attended and visited by family and close friends: Agnes and her mother Felicity, estranged further by the latter’s dementia; Brian and Beverly, whose marital complications are exacerbated by Brian’s new lover, Mark; and Joe and Maggie, unready for the strain of Joe’s impending death and its effect on their teenage son.
“None of the characters are really what they seem to be,” Shamblin said. “The further you get in the script and the story, the layers are peeled back and you get to see who they really are. I’ve always found that interesting. I also love the fact that in this play, the disease that is taking the characters is never named. It could be anything that is taking them. It was really genius of the playwright.”
The characters’ struggles are revealed through interactions with the loved ones they will leave behind. It comprises drama, comedy and overall real life on stage.
“I hope that this play is a reminder that even when we’re faced with something as heavy as death, we need to focus on living in the moment because that’s what matters,” Shamblin said. “We can’t worry about six months from now or what happened 20 years ago. We need to focus on today because that’s all we’re promised.”
The co-directors have creative ideas on how they would like to bring “The Shadow Box” to life on stage.
“Like with ‘DeathTrap,’ we plan to bring the set as far forward on the Coleman stage as possible,” Smith said. “Since this set will be backlit, it will have tremendous depth. Combine those visuals with the sound of the narrator's voice filling the room. I think it will be quite a unique experience for the audience.
The opening scene is set in a cabin in the forest where Maggie’s character is introduced. Maggie is a woman in denial and her son, Steve, is a young musician unaware of his father’s prognosis, Joe, who has his an illness.
The second panel features Brian, a writer, trying to get out every last word while his current lover, Mark, and ex-wife, Beverly, clash over language and what it means when the party's over.
In the final set, Felicity is lost in her dementia, but her daughter, Agnes, is the one who endures the cold retreat of past memories.
Shamblin said the play has no scene changes and that act one goes forward to the next.
“A lot of our scenes will be done with light,” Shamblin said. “One of the characters gets to bring out his guitar and perform original music. I hope to bring original music to the show. It’s not a high technical show and will rely heavily on the cast. They have to bring it and win over the audience. Casting will be very important for us.”
Auditions for the play will be on Jan. 4 and 5 beginning at 7 p.m. at the Miami Little Theatre building, located at 117 North Main Street in Miami.
“Phillip and I are looking for chemistry between the actors,” Smith said. “We can overlook age if the actors have good chemistry together. The actors need to feed off one another to get the sort of emotion we want ‘The Shadow Box’ to reveal.
The production calls for a cast of five men, including one teenage boy, and four women. A variety of ages and demographics are welcome to audition.
Showtimes will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25-27 and a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Coleman Theatre. Ticket prices are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults.
Kimberly W. Barker is a staff writer for the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MiamiNews_hound.