WILMINGTON — William Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage.”
Bare Boards Theatre Company founder Bryan Wallingford seems to believe that as he and the company get ready for their production of “Proof.”
Wallingford, who is also Wilmington High School’s theater teacher, started the company in 2015. He wanted to “find a piece” and then “find a space that fit it” — whether it was performing “Rabbit Hole” at The Loft at Samuel Walker’s or a live radio play version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the General Denver.
“Even when we did ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Murphy, we tried to find a pretty non-traditional way to stage it,” said Wallingford.
This is to allow what he describes as more intimate theater moments — he kind one might see in Chicago or New York, where the audience is immersed in the environment.
When asked what he looks for in shows he said, “truth in storytelling”, which lead him into choosing “Proof.”
“(Proof) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece because the audience really connects with the characters. The dialogue is realistic, the situations the characters are in fall far more into realism,” he said.
The David Auburn penned play tells the story of Catherine, the daughter of the late mathematical genius and the University of Chicago professor Robert. Catherine cared for her father during his lengthy battle with mental illness. Upon his death, an ex-graduate student of his, Hal, discovers a paradigm-shifting proof about prime numbers in Robert’s office.
The play explores Catherine’s fears of following in her father’s footsteps — both mathematically and mentally.
Bare Boards’ production stars Keni Brown as Catherine, Kevin Wall as Hal, Matt Purkey as Robert, and Abby Smith as Catherine’s sister, Claire. Each actor found the show compelling and faced their own challenges.
“It’s one thing to act big on a stage, but when the audience is five feet away from you, you’ve got to be able to pull it in but express yourself,” said Wall.
“The characters are on stage a lot, there’s a lot of memorization, a lot of character development that happens,” said Purkey.
Brown, a student at Wilmington College, was worried about trying to balance rehearsal and finals, but he wanted to do “Proof” because, as she describes, “it’s a wonderful show.”
Smith described the show as “intellectual but no so much that you can’t understand it.”
For the future, Wallingford said he’s planning “Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris this winter. The story is a comedic account of Sedaris’ time working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s.
Wallingford also hopes that they can expand and do shows at fitting venues.
“I’d love to see a ‘Steel Magnolias’ set in a beauty parlor, with only about 10 chairs, but they get one heck of a show,” said Wallingford. “This is my playtime and to be inventive.”
“Proof” will run May 18-20 at 7:30 p.m. and May 21 at 3 p.m. at Kava Haus, 187 E. Locust St. in Wilmington. For reservations call 937-728-3736.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574