Producing new and adventurous works in unexpected spaces is for Karla Boos, artistic director of Quantum Theatre, but the tradition she has created thrives where you might least expect to experience a play. That mission is next realized with the world premiere of Gab Cody’s Inside Passage.
A conversation with Boos in back in December was too early to shed light on many production details. And a new venue in Pittsburgh’s Troy Hill neighborhood was not yet revealed for the final production of Quantum’s 27th season.
What’s happened since is an artistic process that reveals how the text and concept inform what audience members will experience. For Inside Passage that includes documentary footage shot by the playwright in both Pittsburgh and Alaska and an ensemble of six actors in multiple roles.
Ultimately, Boos’ commitment to new works fueled this world premiere production, staged by Sam Turich for its run at the Provident Charter School Chapel Annex, March 2-25
“I feel very supportive in this space of my life of those making new work,” says Boos. “I have always found Pittsburgh to be adventurous. You have to deliver. If it delivers, they respond.”
Boos calls on established designers and technicians to create a new world for each Quantum production.
“Every artist wants the work that they made to be to honored,” says Boos, who has a knack for assembling strong team members.
This time past Quantum artist Rob Long, who provides film collaboration with Cody and Turich, is also lighting designer.
As a small child in Alaska, Cody spent time with step-siblings and foster-siblings from the indigenous Tlingit tribe. She returned there with her collaborators hopeful for a reunion. Footage shot in both Alaska and Pittsburgh runs within the intimate and moving story, realized through development including two trips to Alaska during the past three years.
“I selected this project last year based on watching 15 minutes of film,” says Boos. “It’s such a personal project for them–her family story,” says Boos. “It’s told in a new theatrical language that melds live action film shot in Alaska and theater.
“Artists say there’s a new opportunity for theatrical language. It’s been many years that we’ve felt people need an opportunity to talk about what they have seen. Having experimented for 27 years, I’m trying to explore such language all the time.”
Cody credits Boos with the artistic courage needed to bring such unique new works to life.
“We wouldn’t have been able to take this enormous step forward without Karla’s belief in our work,” she says. “Karla’s support and encouragement at a critical juncture gave me the inspiration I needed to bring Inside Passage to fruition.”
Regarded as a leader in artistic innovation, Boos is also serving as guest curator for the Festival of Firsts, produced by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and aligned with the next biennial Carnegie International, October 2018 through March 2019.
A three-month sabbatical in 2016 jumpstarted Boos’ international artistic safari. She has traveled to locations including Paris, Santiago, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, and Prague, among others, to research her recommendation for more than two dozen works.
“I’ve never spent a year going somewhere different every month,” she says.
Boos was fascinated by the innovation and cultural influences of the diverse theater productions. While some pieces performed in original languages might literally not “translate” for the Festival here, Boos aims to bring unforgettable international arts experiences to Festival audiences in Pittsburgh. Works making the final cut will be announced in May.
Quantum will produce a large-scale experiential project with Boos’ own adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s Chatterton for the Festival of Firsts. Boos says Chatterton is inspired by the successful sold-out run of Tamara (2014) in which the audience physically followed the action through various spaces at the venue, Rodef Shalom.
In the meantime, Quantum’s intrepid and curious audience members will again follow directions to arrive a different space for a unique theatrical experience.
“I think we can play a role in introducing those new audiences to the work that are more experimental and high quality.”
Cody concurs: “To bring something new into the world, an Artistic Director must embrace uncertainty and reside in a state of almost perpetual risk taking. Karla’s ability to leap into the unknown with other artists means that she’s able to discover new worlds and then bring those new worlds to her audience.”
And Boos avoid labels, stating: “Theater is by nature immersive. All theatre is trying to remain relevant.”
As Cody puts it: “Karla’s site-specific work is, quite literally, boundary busting. She provides an opportunity for artists to reimagine the proscenium and the audience’s physical (and philosophical) relationship to theater.”
Inside Passage is on stage at Provident Charter School Annex, Friday, March 2 through Sunday, March 25. Details on varied curtain times, prices and themed pre- and post-show events are at Quantum Theatre online.