by John Stoehr
This Piccolo season hasn't been the best for PURE Theatre, but it hasn't been the worst either. In fact, says co-founder Rodney Lee Rogers, it's gone better than expected. Audiences have been at about 70 percent capacity, he says, which isn't bad for a space like Lance Hall over on Meeting Street. For some reason, performances of The Gentleman Pirate, an original one-man play by Rogers, have sold out (which I suppose can be overstated since the Powder Magazine on Cumberland Street holds maybe 40 people. But still). Something is in the air when it comes to pirates in Charleston.
As for Pirate, Rogers says he's worked out many of the kinks. He cut the audio and video elements that he had originally planned. And he's figured out how to keep the audience cool in a historic building with no AC — he keeps the door open about half the time. Rogers says in retrospect, he should have offered a free preview of the show to see what it would be like putting it on in front of an audience. But such is hindsight. It's 20/20. He hopes to run The Gentleman Pirate every Saturday at 4:30 p.m. throughout the summer, with additional shows added based on demand.
Like most local theatricals, Rogers has had no time to see much of anything offered by Spoleto Festival USA. Presenting five shows at the same time — The Island, The Last Five Years, Sheep's Clothing, The Emperor of Naked?, and Pirate — is no easy task. It always amounts to more work that you think it does, he says, even if you have the best of plans. He did, however, get a chance to see Don John. His opinion? "I loved it."
During our conversation, Rogers went out of his way to compliment City Paper coverage of Piccolo and Spoleto. He particularly liked this blog, Spoleto Buzz. He felt like he knew what was going on in the community, he says. For instance, our writing about one of his actors, Brian DeCosta. DeCosta is mostly known as a member of the Theatre 99 family and the improv group Neckprov. But he's also worked with PURE Theatre before and this year his acting in Sheep's Clothing was particularly strong.
"He doesn't have as much experience as other people, but he's got a heckuva lot of talent and he's a really hard worker," Rogers says. "That's the thing with us. If you're willing to work hard, we're willing to work with you. He's a really young talent that we hope to work with in the future."