Out & About

‘The Shadow Box’ uses theater’s power to explore tough topics

From left, Pam Burkhalter, Michael Howard Hefner and Jeff Lintz rehearse a scene from Theatre Macon’s production of “The Shadow Box.”
From left, Pam Burkhalter, Michael Howard Hefner and Jeff Lintz rehearse a scene from Theatre Macon’s production of “The Shadow Box.” Special to The Telegraph

Jim Crisp believes theater has the power to do more than momentarily entertain with a laugh or cry.

While he said that’s valuable and worthwhile, he said there’s long been a power in theater to do much more.

Crisp said the “much more” is evident in Theatre Macon’s production of “The Shadow Box.”

“Theater — live theater — is the oldest form of reaching people and causing them to feel something, to experience catharsis and such insight into others and ourselves that we have a transcendent moment — a moment where we’re safely encountering and feeling things we typically try to avoid day to day.”

Things like the subject of death and dying. “The Shadow Box” is about death and dying and how people deal with them in complicated circumstances and relationships.

Crisp is artistic director of Theatre Macon and is directing “The Shadow Box.”

“Some might ask, ‘Why do a play about death and dying?’ ” Crisp said. “But I’d say it’s a play about hope and living. It’s about hope and finding closure with loved ones and meaning in the last days of life. I’d say those are important, powerful things each of us have to deal with and theater is an ideal way to explore and gain understanding. As a culture, we’re reluctant to think and talk about such things, yet we’re all mortal beings. There’s something we can learn about the beauty, the meaning and the frailty of life when we consider them in an artful way like ‘The Shadow Box’ does.”

Though the play may sound grim, Crisp said there’s a great deal of humor in actor-playwright Michael Cristofer’s treatment of the subject. He said there’s enough of all the right ingredients to have won the play both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play when it opened on Broadway in 1977. He said Theatre Macon has the players fully equal to the depth of the task.

“Prior to ‘The Shadow Box’ we did the comedy ‘Rumors’ and family-oriented play ‘The Lion King,’ ” he said. “Following it we’ll be doing ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ We cover a lot of territory and I’m glad Theatre Macon patrons and audiences have an appreciation for something like ‘The Shadow Box.’ We certainly have the actors to give it life. I do have to warn that the play contains some adult language and adult situations.”

Crisp said following the Oct. 22 matinee, Theater Macon will present a discussion with area health and spiritual leaders regarding themes in “The Shadow Box.”

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

“The Shadow Box”

Where: Theatre Macon, 438 Cherry Street

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 20-21 and 27-28; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26; 2:30 p.m. Oct 22, 29

Cost: $25 adults, $20 seniors (60 and older), $15 children, students and military with ID

Information: 478-746-9485, www.theatremacon.com