With its 2011-12 season, Actors Guild of Lexington is new in every sense of the word.
Earlier this year the theater revived itself by moving its home base to a storefront just off of Harrodsburg Road, miles from any other group in Lexington's downtown-centric arts community. There, artistic director Eric Seale and his colleagues have assembled a theater where a stage and risers have filled in the shell of the retail space.
Since opening in January, Seale says, the theater has played to 90 percent to 95 percent capacity, defying conventional wisdom that theater has to happen downtown. And AGL did that while not presenting one morsel of comfort food theater — no Neil Simon or Arsenic and Old Lace — turning back a presumption that a suburban audience would want familiar, time-tested titles.
"I think people want to see new things," Seale said Wednesday afternoon. "If you want to see Arsenic and Old Lace, there's a great movie you can rent. But here, we can present things that are new and relevant."
And that philosophy shows in Actors Guild's 2011-12 season, its first traditional fall-to-spring season since its 2008-09 campaign, which was followed by a financial meltdown that prompted radical changes in the c ompany, including most of its management and, eventually, the move to Harrodsburg Road.
In its new space, the theater has presented a speedy seven-show season, including a co-production with Bluegrass Community and Technical College Theatre at the Downtown Arts Center, that began in January and will end with Zoe Laufer's End Days, Aug. 4 to 7 and 12 to 14.
The 2011-12 season will run at a more reasonable pace, starting with Laura Wade's Breathing Corpses in October, a play Seale says turns around the idea of procedural crime dramas on TV by showing the journey of the victim after a crime as opposed to the investigation of the crime.
"It's really cool the way it's structured, and it all comes together in the end," Seale says.
The Seafarer by Conor McPherson will be presented in December, with The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl in January and February; and The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Carson Kreitzer in March, a play about the inventor of the atomic bomb that Seale sees as relevant in current discussions of war and warfare.
As he did with the current season, Seale is leaving the final slot on the schedule open so he can select a play that might be relevant to current events and ideas. End Days, for instance, set in post-Sept. 11 America, will open just a month before the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
But while new and relevant are watchwords for AGL, Seale is careful not to box himself into artificial constraints.
"We can do classics," Seale says. "But we'll do them at times and in a way that will speak to the world we live in now."