Little Stone Productions, an independent Nashville theater troupe formed from some of the talents associated with the Belmont University Theatre and Dance Department, has been running a successful Kickstarter campaign for The Mysterious Door, their newest play. That campaign ends tomorrow; as of early this morning the group had gone past their $900 goal to the tune of $1,180 from 24 backers.
The show runs July 26-28 at 7:30 pm in the Belmont Little Theatre. The cast and crew are Ara Vito, Austin Williams, Mason Sullivan, Grace Kelly Mason, Brooke Mayberry, Lauren Knoop, Caroline Barnard, Gina D’Arco, Miles Gatrell, and Nathan Alongi. Admission is free.
Inspired by the American classic “The Twilight Zone” TV series, the show will feature four episodes. Those segments are tied together by an original through-line (adapted and written by Gatrell) and a solid dose of audience participation that’s strong enough to actually change the outcome of the staged vignettes.
ArtsNash first asked D’Arco, a founder of LSP, about the company’s origins and how they chose this project before proceeding to other questions:
“Little Stone Productions was founded last summer by myself and my good friends from the Belmont theatre department, Grace Mason, Miles Gatrell, and D.J. Clark. It all came about because I was – and still am – obsessed with the play Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph, and I really wanted to do it for Nashville’s Sideshow Fringe Festival because I thought I’d never be able to do it otherwise. But after that production went over so well, we started to think about what we would do if we had the opportunity to collaborate again the following summer. That’s when the Twilight Zone idea developed.
“It was inspired by Miles’ mom, Laura. Miles and his family had just watched some of the original episodes on Netflix and as we talked about the show over dinner, Miles’ mom suggested we consider doing something similar for our next Little Stone production. We loved the idea of bringing a classic pop culture phenomenon to a new generation. We want this show to bring people together, people like our parents who remember the original series from their youth and younger generations, like me and my peers. Underneath the bizarre happenings in each episode, the series is filled with questions of morality that really stand the test of time. So, we thought this would be something everyone could enjoy.”
How does Belmont University support the company and the show?
“The staff at Belmont is definitely supportive of Little Stone Productions. For one thing, we were given the use of the Belmont Little Theatre space for our rehearsals and performances. That is, of course, a huge help because we don’t have to worry about budgeting for venue rentals. In addition, we are also lucky enough to have access to Belmont’s prop stock and set building materials. However, the staff is hands-off in the realms of directing, design, and fundraising. Our cast members are wearing multiple hats so we can bring this project to life on our own. For example, while I’m acting in the show, I’m also producing and costume designing.”
How were the “episodes” selected and adapted?
“The episodes were selected and adapted for the stage by Miles Gatrell. The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, The Eye of the Beholder, To Serve Man, and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet are the episodes he chose. Not only are these stories among the most recognizable Twilight Zone episodes, but they also show a good range and a taste of the show’s essence. We’re currently working on a promo video that will give everyone a glimpse of the atmosphere of the fifth dimension!“
Could “The Mysterious Door” become an American theatre staple?
“I think this could very easily be a show that others could put on themselves in the future. The unique spin we’re adding to the scripts is the element of audience interaction along with an overarching plotline that will subtly connect all the episodes. After we’ve wrapped the production, Miles wants to put his script up online so other independent theatre groups can have free access to it if they chose to use it as a guideline to shape their own version of the show.”
Why Kickstarter? What have you and your team learned about kickstarting a theater event, and what advice can you offer other companies hoping to do the same?
“We chose Kickstarter originally because it’s a program that supports innovative projects and helps gain community interest. It’s an easy way to get involved and show your support for an artistic endeavor, even if you don’t have the luxury of physically being in town to see the production or work on it first-hand. Kickstarter has been a great vehicle to get our out of town friends and family involved and keep them updated with our project.
“We did a Kickstarter last summer for Gruesome and it was extremely successful: we were able to raise $150 over our initial monetary goal. It was easy to raise the funds for Gruesome because that was a very minimalistic show with only two actors, set in modern day. But I’m starting to realize that even though we’re still going minimalistic with The Mysterious Door, since we have three times as many actors involved and the piece demands period style costumes, props, etc., the budget is more daunting.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned through making my own opportunities with Little Stone is that you have to market yourself and your company, you have to fully believe in yourself and your art, and you can’t be shy when it comes to promoting yourself. Essentially, if you don’t believe that you can pull this off, then you’ll never have luck convincing other people to donate to your cause.”