Back in the Day: Anonymous Theatre

What is Anonymous Theatre?

Anonymous Theatre was the brainchild of a group of actors including Darius Pierce from Portland, Oregon, USA.  In a nutshell, Anonymous Theatre is a style of theatre in which the actors are not aware of who their fellow cast members are until they are on stage in front of an audience, having rehearsed separately. It’s enough to scare the pants off most people, but some people thrive on a challenge.  

Rehearsals are conducted one-on-one with a gap between rehearsal times so that actors don’t see one another in the foyer or car park. The only people who know the full cast are the director, director’s assistant and stage manager. This is obviously a huge time commitment for the director as rehearsals have to be spread out over an extended period. Any changes to stage work usually have to be ironed out over at least 3 rehearsals. Needless to say you need a very organised director to pull it off!

Come the night of the production, the actors mingle with the audience and take a seat in the theatre. House lights down, stage lights up, cue music and open the curtain.

The actor who has the first line rises from his/her seat in the audience and makes his/her way to the stage and delivers the line. The next actor then rises, makes their way to the stage and delivers the next line. This is gradually repeated until all actors have appeared on stage at the appropriate time.

The challenging Anonymous Theatre concept was suggested to Beaumaris Theatre by Desiree Munro in 2004. The Australian premiere of Anonymous Theatre in 2005 began with Sketches Amore devised and directed by Desiree Munro with 14 actors in a series of 6 sketches about love by well-known playwrights and in 2006 we staged Nobody’s Perfect with 4 actors (plus a dummy) directed by Ewen Crockett assisted by Deborah Fabbro.  

Nobody's Perfect- Anonymous Theatre2006.JPG
9. Maddy Smedley and Ashleigh Nelson-lighting and sound, Dav.JPG

Obviously, a production can only be anonymous once. Given the time and effort by the director, actors, set builders etc. put into producing the play, the committee decided that additional performances of each play would also be staged as a normal theatre season for our 2007 season of Anonymous Theatre. Anonymous Theatre co-creator Darius Pierce accepted an offer to come to Melbourne, reside with the then Beaumaris Theatre President Janine Chugg and direct the 2007 production of Deathtrap with a cast of 5 actors. This was followed by Bedside Manners, a madcap farce directed by Brian Uniacke, in 2008.

45. Geoff, Sally, Ferris, Roger and Helen- Mark Stewart, Rebekah Chapman, Kindar Soares, Alexander Moller and Raelene Isbester.JPG
37. DavidCristian,Georgy,Ross,Lyn Steve,Faz,Deb,Anna,Colin,Robyn,Barb, Bernie,Dale, Jim.JPG

2009 saw the final production of Anonymous Theatre with an epic production of Dimboola directed by Cheryl Threadgold and cast of 16 actors – that’s 16 hours of rehearsal time for the director each week! Additionally, there was a 3 piece orchestra and a concert party of 7 to include. One actress’ husband had no idea she was in the cast until she left her seat beside him and joined her fellow cast members on stage. Another actor had booked tickets for himself and his wife to see the show but on the night claimed he was too sick to attend and for her to go without him. Imagine her surprise when he came through the door as reporter Leonardo Radish.

Personally, after being involved in season two and five as an actor and season three and four as stage manager, I found the experience exhilarating. The adrenaline was pumping and the achievement of ‘getting it right the first time’ was a thrill.

Steve Morris, Vice-President