Florida Atlantic University is getting a new professional resident company, and theater impresario Lou Tyrrell is getting a third act.
FAU announced Tuesday that it is establishing Theatre Lab on its Boca Raton campus. Tyrrell, who guided Manalapan's Florida Stage through an impressive 24 years before the company suddenly shuttered in the summer of 2011 after moving to West Palm Beach, has been named the artistic director of Theatre Lab. In 2012, he also launched the theater program at Delray Beach's Arts Garage. He left that position in March.
"I have had a relationship with FAU since my days at Florida Stage, when we offered internships to the graduating MFA students and subsequent employment," says Tyrrell, who lives in Lake Worth. "In fact … the chair of the [FAU] Department of Theatre and Dance, Desmond Gallant, came and did an internship at Florida Stage … as the literary manager position. So it was a very short journey to establish a professional theater on campus. I think Theatre Lab represents what a partnership between a university and professional theater can be."
While the university finalizes a location for a permanent black-box venue, Theatre Lab is temporarily located on the ground floor of the Parliament Hall residence hall. That space has been transformed into an intimate, 150-seat "theater in the raw." Beer, wine, drinks and snacks will be available for purchase.
"For years, we have talked about the most effective delivery of thought-provoking new works in the theater, the most effective way to contribute to our most important institutions of learning," Tyrrell says. "Once I left Arts Garage, we were able to turn that conversation into action and reality."
The first Theatre Lab program will begin in October and will include several series throughout 2015-2016. Here are some details:
•"Making Musicals" is a musical theater concert/play-reading series for new work in American musical theater.This series will take place 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays from Oct. 17 to Nov. 8, beginning with "Fugitive Songs," by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen. Admission is $20 ($10 with student ID). A four-show package costs $64.
•"Play Slam" is a weekly festival of new play-readings with discussions including the playwright, director and cast. This series will be held 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays from Oct. 21 through Nov. 11, with the first reading being "Bakersfield Mist," by Stephen Sachs. Admission is $10 ($5 with student ID).
•"The Playwrights' Forum" is a lecture/workshop/master-class program featuring the likes of Marsha Norman, Steven Dietz, John Guare, Deborah Zoe Laufer, Lauren Gunderson and Israel Horovitz. This series will start 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18 with Horovitz. Admission is $35 ($10 with student ID).
"There is no better environment than a university campus for a thought-provoking professional theater to do its best work," Gallant, the department chair who will also serve as Theatre Lab's producing director, says in a press release. "A cultural laboratory for learning, growing and expanding the horizons of knowledge, a theater that creates an artistic home on the university campus is a catalyst for exploring themes, ideas and issues relevant to every department at every college within the university sphere."
Heather Coltman, dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, adds, "Imagine the relevance of a professional theater on campus, producing dramatic literature that tells stories about science, medicine, business, history, psychology, evolutionary biology, gender issues, family, courage, ethics, adventure, sport, human joys and fears, success and failure, dreams and aspirations, and every possible longing of the human heart. These are all issues and ideas at the core of every course of study, every curriculum being offered by the university."
Theatre Lab will also include an education-outreach program, Young Artists & Writers Project (YAWP). YAWP is made possible by the New York-based Heckscher Foundation for Children, and will be led by Delray Beach's Matt Stabile, Theatre Lab's associate artistic director and a local actor and playwright. The program uses theater as a catalyst for creative writing and performance with children. Theatre Lab plans to partner with local schools (grades 3-12) to provide up to 1,200 students per year (600 in each of the fall and spring semesters) with writing workshops and live theater at no cost.
"For me, it always begins with the child," Tyrrell says. "We can provide a creative opportunity for children to develop their communication skills at a young age and gain the confidence and the excitement of expressing themselves. We want to see every child blossom. The idea of having all these generations together on a campus that is dedicated to learning and exploring ideas and using theater as a catalyst for all this interaction and sharing of knowledge has got to be the most exciting aspect of the work we do."