Out of Left Field

new theater company puts on The Shape Of Things

Thom Fountain, photos by Andrea Paulseth

“THIS ROOT BEER IS REALLY KICKING IN!” The cast of Downstage Left’s production of The Shape of Things.
“THIS ROOT BEER IS REALLY KICKING IN!” The cast of Downstage Left’s production
of The Shape of Things.

Jake Lindgren is a guy who loves what he does. For years, the Fall Creek native has lived and breathed theater around the community. Now he’s taking it into his own hands.

Lindgren has founded Downstage Left – a new theater company that will cater to UW-Eau Claire students and other serious young actors.

“I think Downstage Left will fill a void between university stage and community theater,” Lindgren said. “I want to give actors – and myself – the opportunity to really dig in and do the work.”

I want to challenge myself and the actors to experience and express emotions that aren’t easy to do. Things that the audience will recognize are real things and can identify with.” – Jake Lindgren, founder of Downstage Left.
"I want to challenge myself and the actors to experience and express emotions that aren't easy to do. Things that the audience will recognize are real things and can identify with." – Jake Lindgren, founder of Downstage Left (above)

Lindgren said while community theater and the university stage productions are valuable experiences for young actors, they just aren’t the same as working in a professional company with other actors and crew who hope to make a career in theater. And that’s where this comes in.

This isn’t Lindgren’s first run-in with professional theater. While on a break from UW-Eau Claire he worked with Minneapolis avant-garde theater company Lamb Lays With Lion. When he returned to Eau Claire and began taking classes again, he had fellow students asking him what the best way to break into theater was after finishing school.

“I told them to create their own opportunities,” Lindgren said. “And I realized I should put my money where my mouth is (in Eau Claire).”

Downstage Left’s first show will be Neil Labute’s The Shape Of Things, which opens Friday, July 19, at the Grand Theatre. The show was written and based in 2001 and follows four characters, two of which have a romantic involvement. While the show certainly has its moments of humor, it has a much darker underlying subtext that deals with insecurity, manipulation and the struggles of building and maintaining relationships.

Lindgren chose this show for a reason. He was first exposed to it in an acting class at UW-Eau Claire and went back and read the whole script and was drawn to its many deeper layers. He sees Downstage Left continuing on this path in the future, choosing scripts that can be tough and contemplative for both the cast and the audience.

“I want to challenge myself and the actors to experience and express emotions that aren’t easy to do,” Lindgren said. “Things that the audience will recognize are real things and can identify with.”

The Shape Of Things will do just that. Lindgren’s adaptation will remain in 2001, before texting and Facebook and before the World Trade Center attacks. Lindgren was a new student at UW-Eau Claire that year and remembers what it was like to be a young adult then, which has helped him to shape the actors’ views. The four characters – played by Adam Pritchard, Natalie Leighton, Abbey Lowenstein, and J.T. Stocks – all struggle with their own insecurities and youth throughout the very personal show.

In Downstage Left’s first show, the cast and crew are all current or former UW-Eau Claire students, but Lindgren said he plans on holding open auditions for future shows.

The Shape Of Things will run at 7:30pm July 19-20 at The Grand Theatre, 102 W. Grand Ave. Tickets are $10 at the door, and the show is suggested for mature audiences only.

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