When audience members enter Threshold Repertory’s black box theater to see Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Flick, which takes place in an old Massachusetts movie house that still uses a film projector, they’ll be faced with rows of seats meant for another audience — a movie audience. “The audience for the show sits where the movie screen would be, so the projector will be projecting into the audience as if they are the screen,” says director Mark Gorman. “It will be like if you’ve ever sat in a movie and you look behind you, you see the beams of light that come out of the booth.” With the smell of popcorn — which will be sold in the lobby — in the air and the lights dimmed, the line between theater and cinema is blurred.

The characters are three underpaid employees, Sam, Avery, and Rose, who keep the theater running. “I affectionately call them all misfits,” says director Mark Gorman. “And the theater is misfit island.”

The play is a coming of age story, he continues. “Each character must come to terms with who they are and what choices they are going to make to determine their future. Each has their own secrets and struggle to build a lasting relationship.”

The action of this play is not dramatic. Instead, the characters perform the mundane efforts of their jobs — cleaning the spilled soda and trash left behind between screenings, and working in the projection both. The characters and their stories develop, slowly, through their interactions during this work. “The scenes come rapid fire like in a film script,” says Gorman. “Like film, each scene reveals a little bit more about each character, their hopes and dreams, and the development of their relationships.”

The setting of the play also offers an opportunity to merge theater with cinema. Besides putting cinema in the minds of the audience with its rows of theater seats and beaming film projector, the set also offers an opportunity for a more cinematic approach to staging. “There are no specific set locations that characters can claim as their own — with the sole exception being the booth, which is clearly Rose’s domain, and the one place Sam longs to be.”

This setting calls for secondary action around the main focus of the scene. “A lot of the staging I have done hopefully is going to be very cinematic in the sense that you’ll have action in the foreground and the background around the main focus of the scene.” says Gorman. But the theater offers something that a camera lens cannot. “Each seat in the audience is going to have a different perspective on how they see it, which is different than a film. In film you’re kind of stuck with the perspective of the lens. In the theater your perspective is going to be different depending on what seat you’re sitting in in the audience.”

But what makes The Flick the most appealing is the tender struggles of the characters. “I think one of the rewards of the play is the ability to sit back and watch imperfect people struggle in a world that seems to leave them behind,” Gorman says. “To find a place to be who they are.”

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