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'Inside Private Lives': Reality theater

Theater production that involves the audience

Posted: October 22, 2008 4:54 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Adam LeBow stars as Elia Kazan in "Inside Private Lives."

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What would you say to David Koresh (the leader of the Davidian Cult who led his followers to a fiery death in Waco), if you had the chance? To Billy Carter, the beer-drinking brother of President Jimmy Carter?

What questions would you pose to Christine Jorgensen, America's first transgendered personality? Would you want to have a discussion with Marge Schott - the outspoken owner of the Cincinnati Reds?

These characters and a host of others including Brownie Wise, innovator of Tupperware Home Sales Parties; Elia Kazan ("On the Waterfront"), celebrated stage and film director damned for his cooperation with the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy Era; Julia Phillips, acerbic motion picture producer of "The Sting" and "Close Encounters of The Third Kind"; King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne for his love of an American divorcee Wallis Simpson; Simpson, the woman Edward loved; Jane Roberts, trance channeler of the spirit entity "Seth"; Bobby Sands, the first of the 10 IRA members to die in a 1980 hunger strike; Aimee Semple MacPherson, one of the first widely popular evangelists and Ann Landers, advice-dispensing columnist are among the cast of the unique interactive theater experience "Inside Private Lives."

"Inside Private Lives" runs Sept. 7 - Oct. 19, Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. at the Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., in South Pasadena.

Created by Kristin Stone - who portrays Christine Jorgensen - the show offers a chance for the audience to interact with six controversial figures at each performance.

"We offer a gallery of more than 16 notorious newsmakers to choose from, so every show is different," said Stone. "Every time you see the show it's a different experience."

Stone said she created the show to reflect the modern entertainment experience.

"I call it reality theater, we've had reality television and our media is changing," she said. "We can communicate through the Internet now and it gives us a sense of power. Up until now the audience has just been an observer, but we can be part of the creative process. As an audience we do want more now, I want more. When I watch theater now I want to interact."

Stone said when she and a few actor friends first did the show she wasn't sure if anyone would talk.

"At the end of the first performance, when we were taking our bows, someone yelled, ‘would you stay?' And we did," she said. "It was a full house and we got a lot of questions about the characters, that's when I knew this show had something worth exploring."

Stone said the company maintains that tradition now, with the audience invited to stay and discuss the characters.

"Inside Private Lives" makes audience members part of the action, as they are encouraged to confront and challenge the personalties they meet on the stage.

"It's not a free-for-all, there is a structure and there is a path we follow," Stone said.

The show originated in Los Angeles at Theatre East at the Lex in October 2006. The production was also featured at the acclaimed 59E59 Theatres as part of their 2007 East to Edinburgh series in New York City and the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe where the show received several distinctions including a "Pick of the Fringe" nod.

"We've done this show 75-plus times across the country and the world and we've never had an audience that's not been engaged," she said. "The show is structured so it will be entertaining no matter what kind of audience shows up. But the show just naturally encourage participation."

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