Shelly Hudson

Shelly Hudson, director of Amplified Arts, at the opening of the community arts and theater hub’s fifth season.

CLAREMONT – Amplified Arts, Claremont’s theater/art/performance hub, enters its fifth season and fifth year this fall, presenting edgy contemporary theater as well as Elizabethan-era classics. The growing theater company on Pleasant Street has added something new every year since it opened in August 2015.

Director Shelly Hudson said the type of intimate arts/theater experience Amplified Arts presents “has always been the way I’ve done it.”

The small 3rd-floor theater space this year saw the addition of an artists’ gallery and artists’ work spaces on the first floor. Open gallery nights began early this summer.

“Every year we’ve added a new piece,” said Hudson. “Or a new element, which is exciting. We’ve got opportunities for artists to rent space if they’re interested, and of course our theater program which is in its fifth year.”

The Fifth Year Season theme is “Misfits and Monsters.”

“We have a whole season of plays that deal with a wide variety of ‘monsters’ whether it’s an actual monster or an emotional monster. Our first academy production is called ‘She Kills Monsters’ a story of an older sister getting to know a younger sister through a game the younger sister designed in the Dungeons and Dragons format,” said Hudson. “There are literal monsters in that, as well as the emotional monsters we deal with: grief, bullying, LGBTQ challenges for some of the characters. It’s a contemporary piece set in the 1990s, so if you’re a 90s fan or grew up in the 90s that will have some throwback for you.

“And then we have some exciting partnerships; we’re looking to bring in a staged reading of ’26 Pebbles’ similar to the Laramie Project but about Sandy Hook. That will include a panel discussion – it’s not acted out per se, but it’s read by actors to start a community conversation, and it should be a really powerful night here,” said Hudson.

The group of artists that orbit around Amplified Arts has grown to “about 50” over the last five years, including former students who go to college and come back to share what they’re learning. Some of the adults in the company are people Hudson has worked with for 16 or 17 years. Recently, an alumna of the academy – Amplified Arts’ program for young actors—came back to teach intimacy training. These are acts the actors may undertake on stage that could make them uncomfortable, not just in a relationship sense, that push the bounds of intimacy, such as swordfighting. Two actors came in and worked with the company to create a framework, as Hudson described it, so the performers feel they can take risks in a supportive environment.

“Those are exciting for the audience to see, and for the actor very fulfilling,” said Hudson.

For Amplified Arts this is especially important, as the stage is on a level with the audience and close up. A swordfighting scene, such as in Shakespeare in Love, takes place only a few feet from the front rows. Hudson believes this closeness forces the actors to focus, to stay in the moment and on stage at all times; there’s nowhere to hide on this stage.

“We have other fundraisers coming up that are still being formed… then in Spring we’ll have other productions with the Monsters and Misfits theme, and ways for the community to come into our space. Open gallery nights and other fundraisers that are both out in the community and here in our space.”

A recent crop of academy graduates have gone off to college. Hudson is confident they’ll be back to share what they’ve learned.

“They started with me in elementary school and now they’re volunteering here… it’s cool to see it growing in a way that’s very organic. Based on the feelings and experiences they had creating together, and wanting to share it with the greater community. It’s what we call social enterprise, and that’s really what Amplified Arts is.”

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