OC's Newest Theater Company Has a Play Starring a Good (and Really Bad) Dwarf

Categories: Culture, Theater


In the annals of literary dwarflore, there have been plenty of notable ones: Sleepy and Co., Tolkien's world-weary warriors; Oz's Munchkins--if you stretch the definition a bit. But has there ever been a great dwarf?

Apparently so, since The Dwarf is the second production of Orange County's newest professional theater company, Counter-Balance Theater, which, according to its website, "is dedicated to the creation of physical theater based on great literature."

Founded a year ago, the company's first production was an adaptation of Jane Eyre. The Dwarf , based on Swedish novelist Par Lagerkvist's 1944 novel "is an intensely personal view of Renaissance Italy from the perspective of the court dwarf," says Counter-Balance Artistic Director Annie Loui. "I look for a well-written novel that appeals to me, and that is full of action that reveals character. Novels that are episodic are best for this form of physical theater, where we tell the story through physical action."

But doesn't every theater production do that? Yes, to some degree, but it seems that physicality is far more integral to Counter-Balance's mission than the old adage of directors telling actors to just "know your lines and don't bump into the furniture."

"We adapt novels to the stage, condensing imagery and text into a fully realized stage production," Loui says. "So that a core group of six or seven actors play the 100 characters, and the horses and carriages, the architecture, and the furniture. Dialogue is used when it is critical (intimate scenes) and then movement is used when it tells the story best (like) a battle scene, for instance, when armies charge each other....We also use sound and lighting design intensely so that the audience almost feels like they are watching a living film."

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