A spotlight on Mayfair

The Mayfair Black Box Theater will open its doors for the first time with the debut of Almost, Maine, which will be followed by months of comedy, displays, classes and more.

First act: The Mayfair Black Box Theater will open its doors for the first time on March 15, which will be followed by months of comedy, displays, classes and more. Pictured are (from left) Mark Swift, Lisa VillaMil, Michael Berbano, Chelsea Aubert, John Cambridge and Kate Brighter. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

In the small town of Almost, Maine, nine couples learn about love and loss. In Northeast Philadelphia, a black box theater prepares to debut its first ever show to the public.

The Mayfair Black Box Theater will open its doors for the first time on March 15 for the premiere of Almost, Maine, a play put on by Wings of Paper Theatre Company and funded by the Mayfair Business Improvement District. The play features four actors playing characters in nine different stories in the titular mythical town.

For Kate Brighter and John Cambridge, director of operations and artistic director of Wings of Paper, respectively, as well as co-directors for the show, the production is a first in many ways. It’ll be the first production for both Wings of Paper and the theater, which is the first black box theater in Mayfair (a black box theater is a performance space that can be transformed for each production). It’s so new that the theater was being constructed as rehearsal continued.

“We were literally building the theater we perform,” Cambridge said. “It’s neat because we got to design the lighting system for the place and install it and use it, and same thing for the sound system. Because we’re doing all of it, we get to be masters of it.” The stage was built in one day the week before the premiere.

LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

The play will star Lisa VillaMil, Mark Swift, Michael Berbano and Chelsea Aubert, all from Philadelphia. Each actor will take on about four different roles in the production, and said they were excited to be involved with the theater’s first-ever production.

“We get to set quality standard,” Swift said.

“Hopefully, we set it high,” VillaMil said with a laugh.

The whole theater is one room estimated to sit about 60 people with black walls and a platform stage in the center, in addition to a control room, bathroom and basement. The entire production was put together by Brighter, Cambridge and the four actors.

“It was definitely a different experience seeing it all come together. Like, I just assumed every theater already had lights,” Berbano said with a laugh. “It was cool to see everything come together.”

The play, which was written by John Cariani and debuted in Portland, Maine in 2004, features characters falling in and out of love in ways the cast called realistic and relatable to everyone.

“When I first was sent the script, I was at work at a computer in the office and my heart was like, boom,” Aubert said.

Almost, Maine marks just the beginning of programming at the theater. The Nature Within Art Gallery will be displayed beginning March 28, and Mayfair’s Got Talent, which will have community members show off their abilities April 6 at 7 p.m.

Future shows include A Flight of Feathers, which will debut April 11, and a show called Pick, written by Brighter, which will feature audience interactivity in telling the story, which will debut May 16.

“The black box is going to be showcasing people throughout the year, and we hope it gives people a good opinion of trying to make the arts more active here,” Brighter said.

Cambridge and Brighter encourage community members to reach out to them about displaying their work or getting involved in any way. Contact them by emailing WingsOfPaperTheatre@gmail.com

Auditions for Mayfair’s Got Talent should also be submitted through this email.

To purchase tickets for Almost Maine or to learn more about Wings of Paper, go to WingsOfPaperTheatre.org