A mutant is born...
The whole thing was started to keep our "performance rock" ensemble from dissipating during those excruciatingly long months between productions; cause how often can you mount new versions of 2 hour rock operas with huge casts, crews and bands? We cut a deal with a small town recording studio with which we'd previously worked, whereby the ensemble members would build a new studio in downtown Columbus and help with publicity and marketing in exchange for several hundred square feet of rent-free office/performance space. After three months of back-breaking labor in a 100 year old, unheated warehouse, ripping 25 offices back to the original structure; Shadowbox Theatre was born.
It was originally staffed by directors that had only a modicum of practical theater experience: no academics, no divas. With 40 borrowed folding chairs and curtains made of tie-dyed muslin, we pieced together our first black box theatre and our first season. Ah the early months: dodging city inspectors and ASCAP enforcers, creatively "acquiring" useful bits from nearby industrial sites, struggling to create an identity that filled our needs as well as those of our miniscule audiences. Then came the historic retreat...
We had just finished the premiere of Steve Guyer's second work, 'Lone Season', so us chiefs booked it to Florida to relax and plan our next five years. It was obvious that Shadowbox had potential but truly popular success was still eluding us. We talked a lot about our first all-comedy offering during the previous number, Shadowbites LIVE. It was two hours of original comedy; over 20 seperate pieces, ranging from 15 second bits to sketches running for almost 10 minutes. I personally remember having 17 costume changes in that un-A/C-ed space (it certainly lived up to its marketing hook as "the hottest 'box in town"). We wrote most of the material ourselves, but couldn't resist a tribute: Monty Python's FOUR YORKSHIREMEN. We even wrote an introductory sketch that suggested how the name 'Monty Python' might have originated. There were also transitions between sketches using live rock and roll from the band that played for our operas (remember that we were creating original rock operas as our "raison d'etre", so we had a large group of talented singers and musicians as well as actors sitting around with nothing to do). Based on the audience reactions and wacky reviews the show received, we decided that there was a real desire for such comedic lunacy among our patrons. Yet we still needed the training opportunities afforded by doing plays, so we combined theatre, rock-n-roll and comedy into a highly energetic, uniquely original evening, changed our tag from 'theater' to 'cabaret', and BINGO!
Since the summer of 1993, Shadowbox Cabaret has grown well beyond our wildest asparagus. Annual sales have more than doubled every fiscal year and our audience of nontraditional theatre-goers (read: people who never would have believed they'd ever see the inside of a theater) has become the most rabid and loyal fan base in the region. The Cabaret consistently garners good to great reviews and regularly wins local awards for individual performances as well as for our contributions to the health of the local arts scene. We've even been touted alongside the $25 million Wexner Center for the Arts as one of the driving forces putting Columbus on the map through new artistic ventures.