Literature 7-5-2005

Stacia Rice Parks It in the Garage

Dean Seal spoke to Stacia Rice recently about her theater company, Torch, and its new home.

Stacia Rice

The Theater Garage is by its nature the home of medium avante theater. It is ideally located in the avante-Lyndale area (at the corner of Franklin and Lyndale). It’s bigger than a breadbox, or black box, and it is cheaper than the Music Box. It was home to Eye of the Storm for over four years, until Casey Stangel pulled the plug and moved to LA. It has wandered about lately, sometimes used and mostly dark, until Stacia (pronounced STAY-shuh) Rice decided to schedule it.

Rice has just come off the road with the Guthrie tour of Othello, where she understudied all the female roles. (“Ask me how many times I went on, “she said gamely, holding up a zero. “But it was a great experience.”) She recently performed the role of Blanche in Actor’s Equity Showcase’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. She was paired off with Carolyn Pool as Stella and Steve Sweere as Stanley Kowolski, in a truly bitchin’ production. More on that in a minute.

“I was a producer in advertising,” she said over an iced coffee on a steamy afternoon. “The deal, in a nutshell, is that I negotiated to book the Garage space so that Torch could have a home and because I couldn’t stand that the theater was dark. “ Torch is her theater company, which has three show slots booked into the space; her co-renters are Nimbus Theater with four, 50 Foot Penguin with two, and the Fringe with their two weeks in August. “I just want to be sure that people realize the space is open to all. “

The owner, Hosmer Brown, is sometimes available and sometimes not , in the past experience of many renters. “Hosmer has been very available for me, but I am happy to be the buffer,” Rice says with a producer’s aplomb. “It was sort of my deal with the universe. If I can book the space and have some time in it, I’m starting a theater company. My goal is to use equity and non-Equity actors. Hopefully it will be more like what Eye of the Storm did.” She has potential shows in mind, but until she has the rights, she has to keep mum.

She is not directing, she is producing and acting. “I have no interest in directing. Other people direct.“ Like who? “Craig Johnson is going to direct the first show, and I’m a big fan of Sarah Gioia. And there are others, but I haven’t talked to them yet. “

This could be the start of something big. A powerful actor with producing talent can really make a mark on the landscape; think of what George Sutton did with Bain Boehlke at the Jungle. It can be an amazing sight watching a skilled actor applying those skills in real life. Think of Lyndale and Lake 20 years ago, and look at it now.

Rice was making headlines doing powerful portrayals of frail women (Cat On A Hot Tin Roof gathered her bushels of raves) and her Blanche in Streetcar should remove any doubt that she can hit the long ball. The role requires someone to go from terrified to tawdry, vulnerable to seductive to bitterly intelligent to believably fractured. Rice nailed it. The show was a powerhouse production, with a cast of equals. The aforementioned Pool and Sweere each gave as good as they got; deeply felt, layered performances, original characterizations without a false note. It was one of the best things I have ever seen, certainly a powerful demonstration of the exhilarating potential of small theater companies with dedicated actors. It may have been the best thing I’ve ever seen anywhere; I certainly felt that way when I left, and if I trusted my memory better I would say without a doubt. But I can say this without reservation: A Truly Bitchin’ Streetcar happened in this small theater. And artists like Zach Curtis, who directed, and Stacia Rice, who is launching her own company, are churning out top-flight work that is as good or better than what you would find in any city in the United States.

“The reason why I have any desire to have a theater company is not as a vehicle for me, or to do those crazy plays no one does. I want to do super-accessible plays, and I want to do plays that bring in people that maybe otherwise don’t go to theater. Because the whole idea to me is, if there is connection, between the director and actor, and the actor and the actor, and ultimately the actor and the audience, then there is a healing in that. And I feel like that happened in [Streetcar], there was so much good energy and so much collaboration that the audience came in and rounded it out as the additional, final character. And that created this, this hamster wheel which created this light, — that’s what good theater is all about, at least to me, and that’s what I want to do.“

If you want to book the Theater Garage, or help start Torch Theater, you may contact Rice via or call her at the Theater Garage at 612-870-0723. And keep an eye on what happens at Lyndale and Franklin.