The creative minds behind Mesa’s Desert Rose Theatre are no strangers to performing in nontraditional spaces.
The company resided for four seasons in a strip mall storefront at the corner of Alma School Road and University Drive, knocking down walls, building a stage and giving the whole thing an inky paint job to create a black box theater. After that, they moved into temporary digs at a charter school.
Now, after a two-year hiatus brought on by the down economy, the classical theater company is back in a space that will be a first-time venue for all Valley theater-goers: POOL, the shuttered department store turned indoor public market on the northeast corner of Stapley Drive and Main Street.
“We’re sort of doing an experiment with each other,” says Katherine Stewart, DRT’s artistic director. “POOL has this big open space — a big white box, essentially — that they want to treat as a flexible performance space. And for us, it’s an opportunity to christen a found space. That’s big right now across the country, to find a space and create theater in it.”
DRT will open its first show of the season, “Shakespeare in Shorts,” at POOL on Oct. 21.
Before then, Stewart says, professional-grade lighting will be installed, and other modifications are in the works to make the space more theater-like.
“It’s kind of a 4,000-square-foot shell. Right now, it’s four white walls and floor space, and we can move in stages, podiums, chairs and other items to suit the event,” says POOL spokeswoman Pam Paes, who adds that the space will host other events between DRT productions — things like improv nights, live bands, book signings, lectures, meetings and movies.
There are plans to incorporate drapes, portable walls or other features that will more clearly define the area. Indoor and outdoor signage, a box office booth and placement of food vendors near the theater area are also on the table.
Whatever stage the upgrades are in, Stewart says the troupe will be ready for its season opener.
“We’re going to have a full set and lighting and period costumes,” she says.
They’ll also be ready to performing in a place where, for now, distractions like echoes, foot traffic and noise might vie for audience attention.
“In a space that big and unique, there are challenges, but it’s allowing us to get away from conventional spaces with a curtain and a lobby and all that. It gets people out of the cliche of what theatre is, so they’re maybe more willing to experience something new. We’re a very traditional town. Every so often it’s nice to throw a wrench in that and do something new.”
POOL’s grand opening is slated for Oct. 23.
Desert Rose Theatre will perform “Christmas 1943” Dec. 8-18, “Much Ado About Nothing” Feb. 10-26, 2011, and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” April 21-May 7, 2011.
'Shakespeare in Shorts'
What: Desert Rose Theatre opens its season, and its new performance space, with “Shakespeare in Shorts,” a duet of one-act works by George Bernard Shaw and Philip Moeller.
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21-23 and 28-30 and Nov. 4-6; 2 p.m. Oct. 30 and Nov. 6
Where: POOL, 1240 E. Main St., Mesa
Cost: $18 adults, $16 students and seniors, $14 children age 12 and younger