Saint Leo Theatre Company Inhabits New Performance Space

March 22, 2016

University Campus is about to show off a new venue that is expected to create enjoyment and engagement for the community while providing students a versatile setting for exploring the dramatic arts. BH3

Saint Leo University’s Black Box Theatre is a new performance space that opens to the public on Friday, April 1. The debut coincides with the beginning of a six-performance run of A Murder Is Announced, based on the mystery by the popular English crime novelist Agatha Christie. Students will be performing the play under the able direction of Dr. Alicia Corts, assistant professor in the Department of Language Studies and the Arts.

Saint Leo’s Black Box Theatre was installed just recently on the ground floor of Benedictine Hall, which was formerly the home of Holy Name Monastery, the residence of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. When the Benedictine Sisters decided it would be in their best interest to build a new, smaller, more accessible facility on property just across State Road 52, Saint Leo University acquired the old monastery building. The university has renovated the large, rectangular building and renamed it.

Benedictine Hall now provides office space for some Saint Leo employees, but the middle of the first floor was set aside for the performance area. The walkway in the center of the front lawn leads to the building’s main entrance, and the Box Office is located immediately inside. Ample parking on both ends of the building will make theater attendance especially convenient for the audience.

BH2The Saint Leo campus community has been looking forward to an opportunity to have what is known as a “black box”­—a plain, simple shell that is either square or rectangular with dark walls. The stage, flexible lighting, and audience seating area are moved about and reconfigured to best suit the needs of the play, musical, reading, or other event being staged. In this case, the space can accommodate up to 236 audience members at most, but that will vary by production and seating arrangement. The new home of the Saint Leo Theatre company will favor smaller productions, according to Dr. Corts.

“The black box means incredible versatility for our shows,” she said. The audience can be seated to one side of the stage or placed much nearer the action in an arena or in the in-the-round arrangement, she explained.

The intimate setting works also to the positive development of the student actors, Dr. Corts added. Being so close to the audience forces actors to “portray their characters with energy, concentration, and a real sense of truthfulness.”

The Saint Leo Theatre community is eager for neighboring residents and the campus community to attend one of the performances of A Murder Is Announced. The action begins when an English family is bemused to see a strange advertisement in the morning paper: the ad says a murder will take place at their home that very evening. The family thinks it is a joke—at first. Soon, Miss Marple, Agatha Christie's beloved detective character, is in a race to find out who wants the family dead before it is too late.

The performances will take place over two weekends: April 1, 2, and 3 (which is also Alumni Weekend) and April 8, 9, 10. All performances begin at 7 p.m. More than a dozen actors are involved in each performance.

Admission is free. However, with seating limited, ticket reservations are a must. Email requests indicating the evening you plan to attend and the number of tickets you need to: StLeoTheatre@saintleo.edu.

For more information, contact Jennifer “Megan” Orendorf at the School of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at (352) 588-8401 or by email at jennifer.orendorf@saintleo.edu.