SM BEACH — Looks like Santa Monica Rep has new digs for the next few months.
The local theater company, just a year in existence, has landed a plum gig this summer as the artists in residence at the Annenberg Community Beach House. The brain trust behind the local company will use that time to produce what they promise will be an innovative production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
“The structure is unbelievable,” said Jen Bloom, the director for this summer’s outdoor production. “When I saw the venue I flashed to the scale of things that I wanted to build.”
And build she will.
Bloom has a special twist planned for her production of “The Tempest.” Seeing that many of the play’s themes involve magic, Bloom declared that she would use this opportunity to do something whimsical for theater lovers of all ages.
Bloom is leading workshops for the public to build what she described as spectacle puppets, each standing three stories tall. The workshops also foster the aim of the artist in residence program. Hosting just its fourth artist, the program is designed to enliven the beach house, which opened in 2009 as the only public beach house in the nation.
“The Cultural Affairs Division … was inspired by the idea of a beach house guest visiting and then coming across a a dance rehearsal by chance, or booking a seat for a free poetry reading,” said Naomi Okuyama, a coordinator with the division. “We hope that the public enjoys a variety of free arts and cultural programming year round in an unusual setting that juxtaposes these offerings with the physical culture of Santa Monica Beach.”
That notion is what inspired Bloom to create her colossal puppets, hoping to catch the eye of beach-goers and draw them into a production she hopes appeals to all comers.
Aside from the novelty, Bloom will work the puppets into the action, bringing them to the stage to help illustrate when something “magical” is taking place in the venerable play. The vintage of the play itself is what nudged her toward bringing the text to life with the help of the puppets and elaborate costumes for a modern audience.
“That’s the magic of the theater for me,” Bloom said.
While the actual performance of the play won’t come until August, Bloom and her cohorts at Santa Monica Rep will use the months leading up to show time to share their creative process with the pubic.
There will be another puppet workshop scheduled for July 9 at Clover Park and just a week after that the company will begin holding open rehearsals back at the beach house.
Bloom believes the themes of the work should play well with public rehearsals.
“People feel like they are doing something special,” she said of the public aspect of her time at the beach house. “And I think they’ll get a kick out of it, too.”
She said that the surprise isn’t ruined at all by letting the public in on the creative process. She actually thinks they even serve a constructive role in developing the work by giving feedback along the way.
“It’s a good barometer for me,” Bloom added. “That immediate reaction lets us know if this is funny or not.”
The company will do some private rehearsals with the nine-member cast, but she said that public interaction will be key as they work through the summer.
“We looked for people who were OK with [public rehearsals],” she said. “As long as the people who show up don’t talk and are respectful, we’ll be fine.”