Company One Theatre co-founder Summer L. Williams’ production of“BootyCandy”with SpeakEasy Stage Companyopens atRoberts Theatreon March 12, following the run of her critically acclaimed“An Octoroon” co-produced with ARTSEmerson. She knows the show’s title might put some people off, but she thinks you need to get over it.
“I think the audience needs to be prepared tocheck some of their expectations in order to understand what this play is saying and why it’s saying it,” Williams explains. “Plus, it’s a ton of fun.And with a name like that, how can it not be?”
A shift in Boston’s theater patrons
Williams says a show like “BootyCandy” may not have come to life a decade ago in the Boston theater scene, but through Company One, she’s seen the arts industry and culture evolve to become more inclusive.
“It’s exciting to see audiences that are willing to consume riskier, new work,” she says. “When [Company One] stepped into the game, we wanted to change the face of Boston theater — who was telling the stories on stage, and who was in the audience to receive them. I think we did that in a lot of ways and it’s great to think that’s more of the norm now than it was ten or fifteen years ago. It’s neat to see an audience evolve because ten years ago, I don’t think something like [“Booty Candy”] would be happening, or it wouldn’t be as well-received as it could be in the Boston we know now.”
On doing back-to-back productions
“An Octoroon,” a story about race and identity set in a 1859 plantation world, draws limited (though, some) parallels to “BootyCandy”‘s smart, funny, self-reflective storyline about growing up gay and black. So how did Williams’ move from one mindset to the next so quickly in a calendar year?
“In a lot of ways, I was really really excited to direct two wild plays back-to-back,” she says. “I felt like if I can get through this in a clean, organized fashion, and have them both at the same time, it would be really wild and cool. They’re both pushing buttons in Boston in a lot of ways traditional theater here might not have before.”
Always room for growth
Williams and Company One have grown to be fixtures in the Boston theater scene, but even after sixteen seasons, she says she’s always growing as a director.
“One thing I’ve been mindful of with both of these plays is what I [as a director] and the script are asking audiences think about during a show,” she explains. “Especially if a play is asking an audience to think about something they’re not necessarily willing to think about. I’ve been doing a lot of introspective work around that and I’m really excited to see how it plays out.”
IF YOU GO:
“BOOTYCANDY” presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
March 12 to April 9
Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont St.