DARKSIDE with Boots on the Ground


Theater is an ephemeral art form. When a show closes, that’s it. No reruns are available.

The same holds true for Boots on the Ground Theater Company. Based loosely in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the itinerate organization has been in town for five weeks to collaborate with area artists to create a non-conventional production of “Darkside,” a 90-minute drama running July 19 to 29 at the Derek Gores Gallery in Melbourne.

But unlike other theater companies around the area, when the final curtain falls on Boots on the Ground’s production, it will also fall on the the theater company itself. At least in Brevard. At least for now.

About a year old, BOTG goes into communities to produce or present shows that will stir community imagination and discussion. The “Darkside” project is the longest the team has spent in one area. The idea to bring the play to Brevard was a no-brainer for the group. Company co-founder Mikayla Goetz, who was raised in Cocoa, knew that a play concerning NASA could find a perfect home in the Space Coast. The play is about a moon landing gone wrong.

Written by Ken Jones, the drama premiered in 1988 at the critically acclaimed Denver Center Theatre Company. It tells, within 17 scenes, the story of two American astronauts stranded on the moon while astronaut Bill Griffin orbits above in the command module.

Technical malfunctions result in Griffin losing contact when he enters the moon’s darkside. That in turn spurs introspection from the astronauts and their families.

To mount the production in Brevard, the group needed a venue. So about eight months ago, the team began searching for venues in the Space Coast. A “series of closed doors and lucky connections” brought into their orbit Derek Gores, a popular area artist who has turned his gallery in the Eau Gallie Arts District into a cultural hub.

Goetz calls Gores “a blessing.” Gores returns the compliment.

“Watching how these creative from different cities across the country came together in EGAD and collaborated with our local artists to construct the show has been truly inspiring,” he said. “I especially admire how they honor each other’s input, investing considerable time and trust and connection-building.

“The resulting show is fun, dramatic and captivating.”

Goetz said the gallery and Gores’ collage style art work have been a huge source of inspiration for the show, which combines both realism and hallucination.

“His work inspired us to push the limits of conventional storytelling,” she said. “Our show, like Derek’s collages, combines a wide variety of images, characters and textures to create one piece of art.”

To produce the show in the Derek Gores Gallery meant turning an art studio and gallery into a performing arts space. Certainly that has been done with the Not Quite Right Players, an improvisation group which performs regularly in the gallery space.

That group typically moves art off a wall, hoists up some clamp lights, sets up chairs and has at it with improvised comedy shows that fit nicely into the surroundings.

But with a full dramatic production, more theatricality comes into play. The BOTG production of “Darkside” blends many performance styles, which some may call “experimental,” which is simply another way of saying “creative” and “out of the box.” For example, this production includes shadow dancing, multimedia and even a boxing match; and, it places the audience of 35 people on comfy folding chairs in the center of the room while the action takes place 360 degrees around the audience.

Unlike most theaters, there is no offstage space for actors to wait unseen nor is there a backstage crew moving the show along. Instead, actors become the techies, playing sound cues turning on lights, which range from as flood lights and flashlights to headlamps and LED strips.

“We are constantly working to make the ordinary extraordinary,” Goetz said. “(We) have created a truly magical world for this play.”

In addition to working with Gores, the group has also worked with musical artist Stewart Coleman who created original compositions for the production.

The production features resident actors from New York, Virginia and South Carolina. There are also three local actors in the show.

The local actors are Juan Agudelo, who portrays Captain Griffin; Corinne Marie who plays his wife (she was Molly in the Henegar’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” last season); David Diggle, who plays “Capcom” (he was Blackstache in “Starcatcher”); and Keenan Carver, who plays the role of Gunner Smith (he was Anthony in the Henegar’s “I and You” last season).

“Working with such creative young artists has truly been special,” Carver said. “I have never been a part of a devised theater process and I have also never been as challenged as I have in the past few weeks. Our dream team has continuously pushed the boundaries of storytelling. I’m excited by our sense of risk and experimentation and can’t wait to show it to the community.”

After working a year producing shows in various locations, the group will take a performing hiatus in order to develop its original show “Aliyah” and to fundraise as well as to find a permanent home.

“We have loved every second of our time here in Brevard and would by lying if we said it wasn’t on our short list,” Goetz said. “Only time will tell where our boots eventually land, but our numerous community collaborators here on the Space Coast are making pretty good arguments for why BOTG could call Eau Gallie home.”

SIDE O’ GRITS: “Darkside” opens today and runs through July 29 at Derek Gores Gallery, 587 W. Eau Gallie Blvd, Melbourne. Tickets cost $21 general and $18 for students, seniors, veterans and astronauts. Minimal service fees apply. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call or visit or on Facebook at Underground: ArtSpace.

This is an edited version of a story running in the Melbourne Beachsider.