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LILA's History

Founded in 2004 by Andy Arden Reese and Jessica Bess Lanius, Theatre LILA is dedicated to challenging the audience’s experience of theater by fusing theater, dance, music, and multi media into a total theater experience. Based in the European tradition of ensemble and through their unique rehearsal process of integrating physical storytelling with text, LILA bridges the gap between what is visually exciting and emotionally alive.

The Early Days
Arden Reese and Lanius met while in the Graduate Acting Program of Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. They found in each other a kindred vision of a theater vibrantly alive with heightened physicality, emotional depth, and imaginative storytelling possibility, and worked together on numerous projects. Upon graduation, MFAs in pocket, they went on their individual ways exploring their visions in their own theater companies.

Jessica Lanius’ theater company The Wake Up Artists was born out of Lanius’ passion for combining text with movement; developing the collaboration between modern dance and theater. In 2003, after a year of an investigative exploration process with her company, her original work Shakespeare’s Women: Under the Corset was produced at the American Theater of Actors in New York City. At the same time, Andy Arden Reese’s theater company JOS was created with the vision of exploring the power and form of theatrical storytelling in all its incarnations – finding the innovation and poetry between movement, words, images and emotions. What began as an actor’s lab of experimentation grew into a full-scale production of Goethe’s Faust in 2003 at the Blue Heron Arts Center in New York City.

Through the process of developing these two projects, Arden Reese and Lanius became confidants – conversation became collaboration – collaboration became collusion! And with it, the realization that what could be done individually would be more powerful as a team. Arden Reese and Lanius merged their individual companies and Theatre LILA was born.

In 2005, Theatre LILA launched its inaugural season at the American Theater of Actors with a rotating repertory featuring Arden Reese’s sexy interpretation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie and Lanius’ new dance theater exploration of American consumerism in The Waltz of Elementary Particles.


Company Growth
Theatre LILA is dedicated to creating a working laboratory to explore, experiment, and expand a diverse theatrical vocabulary to bring its productions. To this end, along with the LAB series, LILA holds annual retreats for company development. These extended retreats take place in collaboration with the Mystic Paper Beasts Theater Company who donates their rehearsal space - the Dragon’s Egg - to Theatre LILA in the countryside of Ledyard, CT. These retreats have given company members the opportunity to come together and develop seed ideas and projects in a deeply focused way.

Theatre LILA is also committed to stimulate and excite modern audiences in the theater. LILA has therefore established a symposium series in conjunction with Rutgers University. Through this series, university students attend performances and talk back sessions with the artists involved in the work. Through these intimate conversations, keener insights are made about the nature of theater and its potential with contemporary audiences. In 2006, these symposiums expanded to include high school students, and LILA expects they will continue to expand to involve as wide an audience demographic as possible.




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