Dramatic entrance

Black Box Theater

Laurence Veoume Yarbrough is starting Black Box Theater. The new company plans to specialize in small productions of dramatic plays.

Laurence Veoume Yarbrough is starting Black Box Theater. The new company plans to specialize in small productions of dramatic plays.

Photo By David Robert

Laurence Veoume Yarbrough doesn’t trust happy actors. “There’s nothing worse than an actor who just did an amazingly deep and profound scene on stage, and then they go backstage laughing. Because it lets you know they had nothing invested in it to begin with.” This 6-foot-4-inch actor with long, partially blond hair may look easy-going, but when it comes to theater, especially his new theater company, Black Box Theater, he’s very serious.

Black Box Theater is a joint effort between Yarbrough and Bleulion Artspace co-owners Chad Sorg, Amy Sorg and Max Ezra.

Yarbrough, a New York City transplant, cut his theater teeth in New York’s The Door. After arriving in Reno six years ago and stopping in at Bleulion, he immediately felt at home. “It was the first art exhibit/theater space in Reno, or, to be frank, anywhere since I’d left New York, that reminded me of the off-off- and off-Broadway scene.” He made fast friends with the Bleulion folks and, one night over a few glasses of wine, the idea of a new theater company was thrown on the table.

“I’m always looking for more diversity in our programming and for more ways to get people into the gallery, so I’m excited to see what happens with this,” says Chad Sorg. “It’s an extremely intimate space, but we can fit about 30 people and a couple actors in there, which will work.”

Sorg worked with Yarbrough once before, on a zombie movie, written and directed by Yarbrough himself. Although funding fell through, Sorg got enough of a taste to know that Black Box would work. “Laurence is tenacious. This is going to happen, and he will make it work.”

But don’t go thinking Black Box will be like any other local theater company in Reno. Yarbrough is only interested in serious dramatic theater—no comedies, children’s shows or musicals. Not to disparage local theater, but where he comes from, deep psychological drama is where the real connection with the audience happens. The Black Box slogan is “sophisticated drama for discerning adults.”

“I only do controversial theater, I’m afraid,” Yarbrough laughs. “But then, theater is about controversy. It should be thought-provoking. I like people to leave a theater with something to talk about other than the décor.”

He likes his actors dark and haunted, just like him. This, he insists: is how the off-Broadway movement happened. When Broadway became littered with “fluff,” the artists sought new, deeper ground, doing dramatic theater in sparse places. As long as you had a dark room (hence “Black Box") and some actors, you had a show. The performance is entirely actor-director-writer driven. No room for those without talent.

The first Black Box production will be Langford Wilson’s Home Free, the story of two mentally challenged people in a run-down Lower East Side apartment who are expecting a baby and on the verge of eviction. It will debut at Bleulion on July 29. Future performances will include Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, involving three characters in the drawing room of Hell, and John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.

Anyone’s welcome to audition—any age, newbie to seasoned pro. As long as they have talent. Oh, and Yarbrough has one request: “Even if you’re happy, do yourself a favor; don’t come in smiling at me, OK?”