For Prodigal Sun Productions, size matters.
The small theater company, which stages its productions in the tiny Midnight Sun Performance Space, has to keep practical considerations in mind when choosing its season.
“We couldn’t have a play with a cast of 30 people, because we just don’t have the space for that,” said Elizabeth Lord, vice president of Prodigal Sun. “We often choose plays with a smaller cast size.”
On the other side, if a play has only two actors – as does “Parallel Lives” – then friends of the cast can’t fill the seats.
“The more people you have in the play, the more likely you are to fill the seats,” she said. “For each actor, they have three or four if not five or six friends who are going to come see them over the run.
“We’re always trying to balance that, because more people in the cast means more people backstage. You know the game Tetris where you have to move one thing to get another thing in? That’s us backstage.”
The company generally chooses new pieces, she said. “For years now, we’ve always chosen contemporary plays. We don’t revive old standards.”
There’s often an edgy quality to them, too. “How I Learned to Drive,” opening tonight, deals with the topic of incest. But that’s less by design than a matter of what appeals to the company.
“I was contemplating directing ‘How I Learned to Drive,’ ” Lord said. “I joked with everyone. I said, ‘Well, it would make sense for me to direct it’ because one of the plays I chose years ago was ‘Keely and Du,’ which is about abortion, and then I chose ‘Stop Kiss’ this past season, and that is about homophobia and hate crimes.
“It would be safe to say that we don’t shy away from harder topics, topics for mature audiences,” she added. “We are interested in putting out work and having people leaving the theater talking about it.”
Lord and Prodigal Sun Productions president Tom Sanders also are both interested in pieces with strong female leads, a common thread in all the plays this season. “Parallel Lives” – which Lord will star in – has a cast of two women, and “Amy’s View” – which Sanders will direct – focuses on an aging actress named Esme, her daughter Amy, and Amy’s husband.
“Esme is totally about live theater,” Sanders said. “She thinks television is ridiculous. Why do anything on TV where people can go to the bathroom and eat while you are trying to perform?
“The lead role is a great, great role,” he added. “It was played by Judi Dench when they did it in London.”
Prodigal Sun season
The shows: “How I Learned to Drive,” today through Nov. 20; “Parallel Lives,” Feb. 10-26; “Amy’s View,” May 5-21
Where: The Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 Columbia St. N.W., Olympia
More information: 360-250-2721 or www.brownpapertickets.com