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Nate Schwartz
In the world premiere of the comedy “The Actors,” a grief-stricken man mourning the loss of his parents hires out-of-work actors to play the role of his family in recreating scenes from his childhood. From left to right, Patrick Newman and Geoff Means.

PROVO — Utah Valley has no shortage of theater experiences. But now, a Provo theater is offering something new — the chance to see brand-new plays you've probably never heard of.

The creators of The Hive Collaborative plan, as the name suggests, for the theater to be a collaborative experience.

"We're looking at this as an incubator for new works," producer and co-founder Dennis Agle said. "(We will) solicit some feedback and input and gauge audience reaction to it and provide that information back to the playwright and perhaps work with the playwright to take the feedback that we’ve received and modify the play."

Not all playwrights interested in working with the Hive need to be local, and the Hive will still consider plays that have been staged before if there's some "evolution" in them, Agle said.

The Hive's season opener is the world premiere of the play, "The Actors," by Ronnie Larsen. It tells the story of a man who, mourning the loss of his parents, hires two actors to come to his home a few hours a week and pretend to be his parents so he can have a family again.

Carley PorterNate Schwartz
Patrick Newman plays the main role of "Ronnie" in the play, "The Actors." He hires two actors, played by Geoff Means and Hailey Nebeker, to play his deceased parents.

Dennis Agle and his brother Ken put out a call for plays and received 300 submissions. They narrowed submissions down to 24 and then to six. From there, they chose three plays for staged readings. The Agles invited family and friends to attend the readings, and "The Actors" stood out as the clear favorite.

"The play is filled with this kind of quirky humor and it's very unpredictable," Dennis Agle said. "A lot of people respond to humor really well, but it’s not enough by itself."

What really makes the play great, according to Dennis Agle, is how surprisingly moving it is. "The Actors" deals with issues surrounding family and the various baggage that comes from being the member of a family, in addition to dealing with themes of loss.

"There’s some heavy things we go through as a family but those are the kinds of things that can unite us and help us remember that we’re human. And it’s sometimes messy, but it can be a beautiful thing," Dennis Agle said.

Director Patrick Newman, who also plays the lead role in "The Actors," praises the play for being "absolutely (honest)" as well as "clean and family friendly."

"Clean" and "family friendly" are just two of the Agle's requirements for the plays they produce. Their original call for submissions asked for works "that would leave audiences filled with optimism and hope."

"We were curious as to whether there were contemporary plays being written that … have a force about them that kind of shows us what we have in common with our fellow humans, as opposed to being kind of polarizing and dividing us with social commentary that can be divisive," Dennis Agle said. "We’re kind of focusing … (on works) that if you took your mom to it, you’d still be OK."

Nate Schwartz
The Hive Collaborative held a series of staged readings in June 2018 to help select the plays it would produce. From left to right: Patrick Newman, Jake Robertson, Julianna Boulter, and Phil Schwartz.

Dennis Agle said his mother has attended some of the readings for plays so far, and that he and Ken were happy to find that their mother didn't shoot them any "looks," meaning "The Actors" and their second play, "The Bookbinder's Tale" are both mom-approved.

Newman finds this particular aspect of the Hive concept exciting. He said he feels like in most cities, theater tends to have two different kinds: classics like Shakespeare or "Annie," and theater that's "boundary pushing." The "boundary pushing" type, Newman said, can be a little in-your-face and abrasive, which isn't everyone's cup of tea.

"So what we wanted to do is … find this middle ground, right? Like, how could we get those two people that go to see those two different types of plays, in the same room, and walk away having shared some sort of experience together," Newman explained.

The Hive, Newman said, gives everyone involved an opportunity to explore a story relevant to society today. He feels the environment the Agles have created with The Hive provides a way "to get everybody in the same room, at the same table," and "come away uplifted."

"I think theater is one of the most powerful tools we have as a community, for creating dialogue," he said.

Getting their experimental theater off the ground has required a lot of work over the past six months or so — Dennis Agle said he and his brother slept only 4-6 hours most nights. Now, their focus is on their audience.

Dennis Agle said he and his brother want to build an audience that trusts the Hive, so that even if they aren't familiar with the title of whatever show is playing (which likely they won't be), they'll want to come, knowing they will be entertained.

If people will come, Dennis Angle thinks they will like what they see — and what they feel.

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"We’re not really asking for a free pass on how entertaining and engaging the show would be — we want it to have to earn its way into people’s hearts — but we feel if we can get people here and have them feel the impact of the show, (it will) be the kind of thing the would want to share. That’s the hope.”

Jane Agle
Dennis and Ken Agle stand in a corner of the building that later became The Hive Collaborative. The space is just big enough to seat 86 people in a theater.

If you go …

What: The Hive Collaborative presents "The Actors"

When: August 17-Sept. 8, dates vary, 7:30 p.m.

Where: 591 S. 300 West, Provo

How much: $16.75 for adults, $13.60 for seniors, $13.60 for children

Web: thehivecollaborative.com