The name “Titanic” evokes great size, grandeur and tragedy. So it’s no surprise that the story inspired a 1997 Broadway musical. And now that Serenbe Playhouse has gotten their hands on it, the outdoor theatre known for grand, dramatic gestures has gone “titanic” with the show.
“I said ‘hey, we’re gonna build this ship structure and we’re gonna sink it every night,’” Serenbe Playhouse founder and executive artistic director Brian Clowdus says, “not knowing how … I was gonna do it!”
How they’ve done it is by constructing what look like the bones of the ship out scaffolding anchored in the water.
The set is five stories in all, including the ship’s four smoke stacks. The scaffolding is meant to evoke a stripped down, blueprint-like view of Titanic.
“The thing that makes it such a prevalent story in our minds is the cross-section of society that it was,” said set designer Adam Koch. “And here we literally and figuratively get a cross-section of all that society. So we can see at the same time, all these levels of society working together and apart in their separate compartments and as a whole.”
That class stratification is part of what keeps the story of Titanic relevant today, according to Clowdus. And to highlight that, the theatre has gone with non-traditional casting.
“So you’re going to see all races in every class,” Clowdus said. “That was really important for me for this to be a Titanic of 2018. I want our audience to relate to it.”
“With anything I do, I don’t like to talk about politics all that much, I like to let the work speak for itself,” he said.
And that work is speaking through a cast to match the scale of the production. In the course of the show’s opening number, forty cast members board the ship.
“You get snapshots into 40 people’s lives,” Clowdus said. “All forty of our characters, they were actual people who were on the Titanic. So we’ve been able to pull into the historical aspects. As an actor and a director, you are honoring a piece of the past, these were humans that were on this ship.”
Serenbe Playhouse set out on their maiden voyage with “Titanic: The Musical” on July 13, and the show runs through Aug. 12.