The Vanguard Sanctuary for the Arts, 1501 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-610-7263; ThinkingCapTheatre.com
There are many excellent theater companies in South Florida, a few of them frequently trying edgy work. But few of them consistently go all out like Thinking Cap Theatre does. Founded in 2010 by Nicole Stodard, an academic turned theater producer, the Fort Lauderdale-based company mounted at Empire Stage experimental work such as the dangerously dark “Cleansed” and a neo-punk interpretation of the Restoration sex comedy “The Rover.” With two one-act comedies under the umbrella title “Love Burns,” the set became a real working coffee house during intermission. Two years ago, Thinking Cap got its own home at the Vanguard, a former church built in 1939. There, the company really let it rip, staging everything from a disco-fied "The Importance of Being Earnest" to the soul-hammering drama about poverty “Mud.” That’s the thing, you never know what to expect and you’ll never be bored. When’s the last time you thought that about a theater troupe?
“Since 2010, I have made gender parity in season programming a driving factor in decisionmaking,” Stodard says in an interview via email. “Women, and also transgender and queer playwrights, remain severely underrepresented on the American stage, comprising only 20 percent of season programming in New York and regionally. Too often, artistic directors make this point a minor concern or ignore it altogether. I am drawn to plays that tackle tough issues. I love the paradox of staging challenging, disturbing works in a beautiful manner that compels us to take the journey instead of covering our eyes. ‘Cleansed’ and ‘Mud’ both epitomized this. I'm drawn to nonformulaic plays, plays that experiment with convention, plays that most companies could not or would not risk staging.”