When local actor/director Bob Yount crafted the idea for an upcoming Spaceworks Tacoma project, 4th Wall Theater, he energized the grand idea of theater as a social act. His proposal: to bring full-form mobile theater productions and improv acting classes to the elderly.
4th Wall Theater was conceived for fans of the stage who may be unable or unwilling to travel distances to theater events. “We solve that by bringing the production to them,” he says. The professional cast and crew are skilled in creating high-quality productions that are adaptable to each senior community or facility. Spaceworks Tacoma is supporting the work of this innovative troupe with a three-month artists’ residency at 915 Pacific Avenue, starting February 1. Yount says the savings provided by the rent-free rehearsal space may translate into creation of “up to 10 paid acting/tech jobs per show. Our standard season is six shows, so [that’s] adding a potential 60 paid jobs in an industry where getting paid to do what you love is a rarity.”
For young and old alike, live performance holds an excitement different than that of digital media. Yount explains the appeal: “Live theater is all about connecting. The audience connects with characters on stage, and an actor connects with his audience through their emotions. The ‘4th wall’ is the imaginary wall that is removed so the audience can see inside the actor’s world. Breaking through the 4th wall is when an actor on stage makes eye contact or talks directly to the audience. Our productions, and the very reason we chose the name 4th Wall, set out to destroy the 4th wall. We bring our audience on stage with us (sometimes literally) and make them the stars of the show. Unlike any other type of media, we stress personal contact and emotional connection.”
An active participant in South Sound community theater for the past decade, Yount is surprisingly modest about his t.v. and film credits, which include a spot on the HBO smash, Six Feet Under, and several episodes of The Fugitive, as well as parts in feature films. Yet he is effusive about his four years of performing on the Spirit of Washington dinner train, performing interactive mystery theater with guests. “There was no better gig for an actor. The chance to work with the best group of actors in the Puget Sound, and be given the freedom to develop characters that entertain. The one thing you learned very quickly is how genuinely appreciative the elderly members of our audience were. They loved to play and enjoyed being part of the action.” That experience laid the ground for 4th Wall Theater.
Rehearsals are underway for the group’s first production, Show People, by Paul Weitz. Yount rues the fact that many South Sound actors must migrate to Seattle to make a living, and hopes his project may turn the tide, a little. He says 4th Wall Theater will support the Tacoma community by attracting a steady flow of theater professionals into the downtown. The troupe is offering high school internships in the areas of acting, basic stagecraft, costuming, and marketing; interested parties can contact BYount@4thwalltheater.com. Information at www.4thwalltheater.com. 915 Pacific Avenue, Feb. 1 through May 1, 2011.