ORLANDO – Don’t make the assumption, Sylvia Viles Vicchiullo said, that just because she wants to be a theatrical renegade that she has contempt for the classics.
Far from it.
“Renegade tends to avoid mainstream productions,” Vicchiullo said. “Not that we don’t like them – I’ve done a lot of classics. One of my first productions was directing ‘Twelve Angry Men’ for Wade Hair at Breakthrough Theatre (in 2011). I don’t have an aversion to them, but to me just there’s just so many of the soul searching black comedies that just appeal to me.”
Vicchiullo is one of the creative forces behind Renegade Theatre, which produces plays that are, she admits, a bit outside the mainstream, from avant garde works to pitch black comedies that are unlikely to find their way onto the 8 o’clock family hour on television – and that’s exactly what she’s looking for.
“I have an ultimate respect for the classics,” she said, “but there are so many shows out there that are bent. I love that avant garde-type theater. This isn’t your mama’s Doritos here.”
Renegade Theatre was formed two years ago, and successfully struck up a collaboration with Howlers Theatre, a production company run by actor and director Jeremy Wood, which produced the dark comedy “Mr. Marmalade” at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre this summer. Vicchiullo said she and Wood share a passion for shows that wander well beyond the comforts of the mainstream.
“We have a love for doing avant garde, slightly off-kilter, not your mainstream shows,” she said, adding that there’s actually a much larger audience for this kind of production than some might assume.
“There’s a niche for it,” she said. “I’m very fortunate working in this community, and while everybody thinks of us as a tourist town — and I have my annual passes to Disney and go like everybody else – if you drive 20 miles from there, you have the real Orlando, and it just blows my mind at how much creativity is in this town.”
She and Wood also have something else in common: a new home. They just moved into a 6,000 square foot warehouse at 1824 W. Washington St. at the corner of Tampa Avenue, for what has become the home to their new theater for off the wall productions, the Rocking Horse Theatre Factory.
“It is amazing,” Vicchiullo said. “You get there and you look at it, and you’re like, ‘Holy smokes!’ I was so impressed.“
A former factory, it still has a sign that reads Orlando Brick Pavers outside, “But it will say the Rocking Horse Theatre Factory soon,” she said.
“The warehouse is massive,” Wood said. “We’ll actually do smaller shows until we can properly build the large theater building. It’s so amazing to see the dream go this far this fast!”
The search for their own theater, Vicchiullo said, was the result of a strong desire to have a place they – and their shows – could call home.
“We actually are very similar, and that’s why Jeremy and I got along very well,” she said. “I took ‘Mr. Marmalade’ to Jeremy back in February, and that’s how we got collaborating on it, but it was so difficult to find theaters to perform in, especially financially. Renegade and Howlers had this concept of doing great shows, and I said ‘I want a home.’ I wanted to be able to set down roots.”
Rocking Horse will open its first event next Friday, when it hosts the Third Annual Puppet Art Show, which runs Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 5-9 p.m.
Then on Thursday, Oct. 18, they will be holding auditions for a special Christmas fund-raising show that Vicchiullo said would definitely follow in the tradition of their earlier productions – not a sweet and innocent show for the kids, in other words.
“Very few people in this town enjoy taking on this kind of theater,” she said. “But there’s just enough of us oddballs out there that we’re building an audience, and there is an audience for this. Our goal is to keep theater alive and going.”
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