- Photo by J. Christine Lanning
- Tiffany Tuggle (L) and Christine Jolly in MedusaUndone.
Throughout 2020, the performing arts industry as a whole remained largely shut down. The first to go dark, Broadway has been off-stage since March of last year, and finally returns this month. Without an audience, a live performance is nothing but a rehearsal. And when actors can’t touch, their most intimate and moving scenes may as well be a video call.
All pandemics aside, 3rd Act Theatre Company has continued to innovate and sustain a “find a way, make a way” attitude. 3rd Act continued live performance all through 2020, both with their Mainstage productions, Noire series, and their ever-popular Drunk Classics tour.
In April 2021, 3rd Act produced the Oklahoma premiere of Bella Poynton’s Medusa Undone during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This moving and deeply affecting story is a retelling of the Medusa myth. In this version, Medusa is a young sea nymph in the service of the goddess Athena. Medusa is brutally attacked by an arrogant god, her friend Poseidon. In the aftermath, Medusa is left devastated and alone. She’s cursed with eyes that kill and snakes for hair, and she’s trapped in her own rage. This beautiful commentary on assault and the aftermath is messy and raw. Tiffany Tuggle and Keegan Zimmerman gave performances of a lifetime, and every one who witnessed this production was breathless by intermission and speech- less by the final bows.
The care and consideration that 3rd Act took to produce this important work is further proof of their commitment to fostering safe spaces. 3rd Act has a unique mission; not only do they create thought-provoking works in a wide- range of offerings, but they do so while upholding their commitment to creating safe environments for their performers and patrons. This conscious unlearning of toxicity that is so prevalent in the performing arts world puts 3rd Act in a class of its own.
3rd Act’s hit fundraising tour Drunk Classics is exactly how it sounds – a cast of real actors recites classic Shakespearean works to a raucous audience at rotating breweries in and around the metro. However, one actor each night must perform while drunk. The cast member to become inebriated
during the show is select- ed by audience vote. Attendees are also encouraged to sponsor improvised edits throughout the show. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen accomplished director/instructor/ actor Kris Kuss recite the tongue-twist- ing Hamlet line “If it be now, ‘tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come” shortly after mumbling “SHIT, this line” and nearly falling over. Drunk Classics tours twice a year and will return for the holiday season.
Innovation was a requirement to continue live performance during both a worldwide pandemic and an unprecedented, across the “boards” theatrical shutdown. The Company produced socially distanced and masked productions, designing and making their own clear masks for the actors to wear on stage. This provided the ability for the company to keep work available to the theatre community throughout the summer and Fall. They’ve continued to follow CDC guide- lines and actors remained masked in all Season 2 productions.
When asked about the importance of continuing live performance, 3rd Act Board of Directors President Dakota Lee Bryant said, “It was an innate calling. We went dark for a matter of a month or two at the end of season one. But as we saw the potential to reopen, it became imperative to find the safest way back possible.” Bryant continues, “The type of theatre and atmosphere we strive to create at 3rd Act can only exist when we are open, and when we offer a place for the community to gather and to create. Thus, we knew we needed to be open.”
When asked about their drive toward innovation during an unprecedented time, Bryant said, “Trial and error really had a hand in pushing us forward. We were able to examine not only what worked and didn’t work, but also what processes we could automate. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to find a way to keep our staff and artists safe. Our team drafted many new and updated hybrid procedures to help not only keep our space safe, but also equitable on time (through digital auditions and virtual rehearsal spaces). Innovation became a key factor. We, like all other performance art companies, have had to keep pace with a novel virus that seems to adapt as fast as we do.”
Season three takes 3rd Act into uncharted territory with its theme of UNKNOWN. Season three begins in August with The Complete History of Theatre by Matt Thompson and the theme will persist throughout the entire season, much like FAMILY for season one and POWER for season two. Each show is unique, and even the ones that are familiar will feel new. Following Complete History of Theatre, 3rd Act will produce The Red Lamp, Chagrin Falls, Little Women, Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, Shakespeare Conspiracy, Sherlock Holmes, and Hamlet with a Gender-Bent twist. Their main location at Northpark Mall is cozy and inviting, and seeing a show in their comfy bench seating feels like coming home.
3rd Act is a new theatre company, and they’re starting off right. They’re serious about their commitment to creating a safe working environment for artists, and all the work they do is work from the heart. Nothing gets past theatre critics; we see it all and know more than we let on. 3rd Act is changing the narrative, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
Tickets for season three, UNKNOWN, are on sale now.
**Editor's Note** Adrienne Proctor is an ad-hoc board member of 3rd Act Theatre Company and a freelance theatre critic.