In the last few years, Los Angeles has been earning a reputation for presenting great theater, producing original work and premiering and workshopping shows still in their early stages. This newfound status as a buzzing theater town is in no small part due to companies like Blue Sphere Alliance, which has become an important face on the L.A. theater scene at not even five years of age. Having established itself there, the company is already expanding to the other coast; its new sister troupe, Blue Sphere East, debuts in New York City this month with its first production, Trust.
Blue Sphere Alliance was originally the brainchild of three men: Anthony Barnao, Russell Daniels, and Christian Campbell (who made a splash in last year's indie hit Trick). The triumvirate found themselves in L.A. doing film and television, but were anxious to get back to stage work. So they started their own theater company. That might seem like a bold first step to make, but they had their own ideas about what they wanted to bring to audiences. "There's a mission and there's a goal: socially-minded theater," says Campbell. He is proud that Blue Sphere has presented relevant new work that touches on important issues, rather than simply falling back on the classics or less risky plays.
When Campbell recently relocated to New York (where he is filming the new Fox TV series The Street), he realized he couldn't stand to be away from the stage. Two others from Blue Sphere, Kim Tobin and Robert Harriel, felt the same way, and they along with Campbell decided to form an offshoot company in New York. It's been a great deal of work for the trio; they are acting jointly as artistic directors and are slowly building up their membership, as well as making connections with the NYC theater world.
While the environment is new, their goal of bringing undiscovered talent to the fore remains. "We actually managed to put up a lot of very new writers," says Campbell of Blue Sphere Alliance, and the group hopes to do the same with the Manhattan branch. Playwright Steven Dietz (Lonely Planet, Still Life with Iris), for instance, is a prolific writer who is better known outside of NYC; by producing his play Trust Off-Broadway, Blue Sphere will be exposing his work to a number of people previously unfamiliar with it.
Dietz's Trust, opening on October 19, is about six individuals with very different perspectives on life whose paths all meet because of Cody, a rock star who is confronting his own problems of temptation and fame. Cynthia Croot is directing the play, which features sets and costumes by David Barber, sound by Todd Griffin, and lighting by Marcus Ropy. The production stars Spencer Aste, Elizabeth Lambert, and Sara Wolverson. "It's wonderful writing, six actors, a simple set, and very lighting driven," explains Campbell, who says that these aspects are characteristic of a number of Blue Sphere's previous shows.
Tobin and Harriel round out the cast of this first production. But Campbell will not be on stage, and he doesn't anticipate being able to do much acting with the company. With his busy shooting schedule for "The Street," he expects that his role with Blue Sphere will continue to be more in the line of "organizing, establishing relationships," that sort of thing. Though he still considers himself an actor first, Campbell enjoys working behind-the-scenes in this way. "I love being around theater people," he enthuses, "Even if I'm not acting, I want to be surrounded by them."
Blue Sphere Alliance has steadily grown, this year boasting a season of eight full productions--no mean feat for such a young company. Blue Sphere East will be a somewhat different venture, but with the same mission of giving new writers, actors, technicians, and other creative people the opportunity to develop and produce work.
Plans for future productions include W. Colin McKay's Nagasaki Dust, which the group did to great acclaim in L.A. "I never thought it would last this long," says Campbell. "It's done very well." So has Campbell. And, hopefully, so will Blue Sphere East.
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