Spotlight on The Hive: Behind the Scenes with Spencer Belnap
I had just completed a year-long spout of back-to-back plays, and I told myself I was taking a lengthy sabbatical from theatre to focus on film and other things. But it wasn’t long before a fateful Facebook message from Jared Greathouse would propel me back on stage, and forever shape me as an actor. Jared and his wife, Tiffany, had formed The Hive Theatre Company in 2010, and were looking for an actor for an upcoming short play of theirs that would be part of the 2011 Page-to-Stage Festival. I had seen The Hive’s production of Baby With The Bathwater, and was intrigued by the company’s absurd and edgy initiative. They had seen me as Stephano in a production of The Tempest, and thought I’d be a good fit for this upcoming short play called Queen Bee. I was hesitant, but ultimately joined up knowing it was a great opportunity to work with some new people, and be a part of a newer theatre company in town. Well, we had a truly awesome time with Queen Bee, and the play won Best of Fest at that year’s Page-to-Stage Festival. I think Jared, Tiffany, and I knew that we had struck some rare and true chemistry and camaraderie during Queen Bee, and it only made sense we work together again. And again and again.
The Hive Theatre went on to produce Edward Albee’s At Home At The Zoo the following year, and I was fortunate enough to play the role of Peter. Peter was probably one of, if not the most challenging roles of my career so far. Albee’s dense and repetitive language, and the challenge of being on stage the entire length of a play, were brutal but extremely enriching as an actor. I’d never had such a gamut of emotions to play with in one piece, and came to realize how truly important listening is while on stage. Peter is also one of my favorite roles of all time due to the intensity and breadth of the character. It’s one I’d like to tackle again in another ten years or so with even more stage and life experience under my belt.
Since Zoo, I’ve had the privilege of performing with The Hive a couple other times, and each experience is fun and rewarding. I believe that theatre is a big commitment. If the project/role doesn’t speak to my purest virtues as a person and an actor, I won’t take nor make the time to do it. I’m pleased to be a part of the upcoming Bupkis: A Play About Nothing. This is definitely unlike anything you’ve seen before in SLC. Five original short plays by five local playwrights performed by five local actors. The plays are about nothing. Yup, nothing. No themes or messages. No overlying connection to one another. Each is unique in tone and style, and aim for something that has perhaps become lost in many plays: entertainment. Some comedy, some tragedy, an element of absurdity here and there, and a dark undertone come into play. I was immediately drawn to the concept, and tried writing my own short play, but found it very difficult to not include a theme, or the usual constructs most plays have. But being able to perform in them will be awesome. I play four different roles in a span of 90 minutes. I will work with new people, and I get to breathe life into a piece of art that has never been done before anywhere. That’s exciting to say the least.
I continually come back to work with The Hive because they offer unique and difficult plays in a community that struggles to be or is afraid to be, well, different. Different is good. Theatre is a lot more than the classics, the musicals, and the family shows, which Utah seems to offer in abundance. Other cities/states offer a lot more, and I think SLC can offer a lot more. With companies like The Hive gaining momentum and producing new and original work, our shared artscape only stands to be strengthened and enriched. For every Importance of Being Earnest, there should be an Edward Albee’s At Home At The Zoo. For every Shrek The Musical, there should be A Behanding In Spokane. Jared and Tiffany are young and hungry for these same kinds of things. They want to attract people that never go to the theatre. They want to smack us out of our Netflix binges and comfort zones, and remind us that this city is teeming with new and exciting performance art. So if you rarely or never go to the theatre because you think it’s too boring or too stale or just too damn lame for your money, I highly recommend giving The Hive Theatre Company and Bupkis a shot. And if you’re a regular patron of the performing arts, consider leaving your familiar worlds behind for one night and experiencing something different. If you’re not entertained, so be it. But at least you will have been witness to something never seen before. How many people can say that on a regular basis?