Theater enlivens the halls and hollows of the Goodwood Museum & Gardens. The grounds house many local theater companies’ rehearsals and performances —Theater with a Mission, Southern Shakespeare Company, the Irish Repertory Theater— as well as the Goodwood Players for their one-act British play “Sham.” The latter was how actor and director Lanny Thomas first got involved with Goodwood. Thomas helped with the installation of “Sham,” and was recently part of the Irish Repertory Theater’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Both shows utilized the concept of promenade theater, which allows the audience to travel with the action rather than changing sets.
Audiences experienced Goodwood in a new light as they moved throughout the house’s main hall, parlor, library and outdoor cottages. As director for Poe’s Fright Night on Oct. 29, Thomas will use Goodwood’s grounds once more, but this time to create chills and thrills.
“We’re going to be doing Fright Night on the front porch of the main house,” says Thomas. “It just had a facelift as they’ve upgraded the paint. We’ll utilize the whole area and have some surprises to involve the audience.”
Thomas has worked in theater for nearly 50 years. In his early days with a Washington, D.C. based Shakespeare company, he became exceedingly comfortable performing on site whether it was out on the Mall or behind the Washington Monument.
Thomas says that studying Shakespeare’s works have also sharpened his mind as an actor and director given the many layers of language and uncovering the “unseen” aspects of a character. He trained at Case Western Reserve University, American University and the University of Maryland before earning his masters in acting from the California Institute of the Arts. Thomas sees his work in the arts as a continuation of his father and brother’s social activism.
“When I was growing up, my father and my brother were involved in ways in which to better society,” says Thomas. “I have those same inclinations but it turned out my expertise and passion was in theater. The reason I got into it was to use theater as the conduit for enriching people’s lives or to do things that are more socially responsible.”
Thomas began to transition from actor to director once he moved to Tallahassee. Under the mentorship of Theater Tallahassee’s Chuck Olsen, he formulated his own style and methodologies when it came to creating scenes onstage. Thomas describes his style as “giving the actor more latitude” to make their own decisions.
Shaping those choices happen over the course of the rehearsal process, though Thomas says he rarely gives actors blocking, or places to move onstage. He enjoys watching actors discover the nuances of their characters over time.
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