Hilton Head Island's newest theater company wants you to go to a show and lean in.
Not in a Sheryl Sandberg way, but because you're so engrossed in what's on stage that you physically bend forward.
"The goal is to get people to do more than come in, buy a ticket and leave. We want the audience and actors to engage in the conversation," said Blake White, artistic director of Lean Ensemble Theater.
Lean Ensemble was an idea that White developed over the past year with the goal of producing intimate, thought-provoking plays. That includes dramas and comedies, along with American classics and Shakespearean plays.
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White is the previous associate producer for the South Carolina Repertory Company, the Hilton Head theater company that closed its doors after 22 years last January.
"Now that that's not around, it was time to see what else we could do to help fill that hole," White said.
Lean Ensemble Theater's first production will be "God of Carnage," a play about two sets of parents whose children get into a physical fight on the playground. The parents meet to discuss the matter, and things quickly go awry.
The play will run May 14 to 17 at Main Street Youth Theatre on Hilton Head. White is the director, and the cast members are Nick Newell, Peggy Trecker White, Jeffrey Watkins and Jenny Zmarzly.
"It's very funny but deals with universal human traits that are less than great," said Newell, who plays a dad named Michael.
Funds for the production were raised through a crowdsourcing campaign that asked for "a little bit of help from a lot of friends," White said. So far, the theater has raised $18,000, he said.
Tantamount to the acting will be the "talkbacks" after every performance. These will be structured discussions in which audiences can talk with the actors and ask questions about what they've just seen, Newell said.
Newell has done several talkbacks on Hilton Head as part of the New Play Festival, which was sponsored by the S.C. Repertory Company.
Talkbacks were a successful post-production venture for the SCRC, said founder Hank Haskell.
"We tried them first to see if our audience would like them, and they grew in participation as people heard how much fun they were," he said, adding that he wished White and his theater well.
Newell considers Hilton Head a great place to do talkbacks.
"Audiences here are very smart and not shy about getting involved with the productions that they're watching," he said.
It helps that "God of Carnage" is provocative. What starts as a polite conversation among the parents gradually turns dark as they fall into loaded topics such as racial prejudice and sexism.
As long as people are talking about the show in deeper terms than "I liked it" or "I didn't like it," the show will be a success, White said.
"Anything that keeps you considering what you just saw for a while."