Dark Horse Theatre Company Brings Daring Production of ‘No Exit’ to Two Northern Virginia Venues

"There is liberty in not having a brick and mortar theatre of our own"--Natasha Parnian, founder of Dark Horse Theatre Company

Adding to professional theater options for audiences in Northern Virginia, Dark Horse Theatre Company will be mounting its next production at ArtSpace Herndon, as well as in its regular home base venue in The Plains, Virginia.

Specializing in regional premieres, new works and “forgotten” works, Dark Horse is returning to ArtSpace Herndon after the success of its east coast premiere of The Value of Moscow, written by California-based Amy Dellagiarino and the regional premiere of Craving for Travel by Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg. For its upcoming production, Dark Horse is producing the 1944 existential classic, No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre, perhaps best known for its oft-quoted (and misquoted) line “Hell is other people.”

My interviews with the Dark Horse staff including No Exit director and Dark Horse Managing Artistic Director Natasha Parnian (NP), Arianne’ Warner (AW), Dark Horse co-founder and resident artist, and Scott Pafumi (SP), Dark Horse company member/resident artist follow.

David Siegel: Why do you think Fairfax County needs another professional theater company?

Natasha Parnian (NP): Dark Horse definitely has its own texture. We have sought to make professional theatre approachable for all. Ticket prices for all performances are $20 or less. Since we do not have the budget of most of the larger area theatres, we have to be immensely creative. Our process is actor-centric and in a “studio” style. These high standards for the performers provoke very honest, raw performances.

We are more of a fringey, nomadic professional company. There is liberty in not having a brick and mortar theatre of our own. We can remain flexible in our staging, audience seating, and experiential happenings. One of our core values is to make strong choices. This doesn’t always mean doing what is “theatrically safe” and mechanized. We endeavor to apply this value to each of our productions. We are not here to blend in with other area theatre groups. We are here to run our race.

Dark Horse Theatre in rehearsal for 'No Exit' at ArtSpace Herndon (L to R): Jane Steffen, Scott Pafumi, Arianne' Warner. Photo by Olive Images.
Dark Horse Theatre in rehearsal for ‘No Exit’ at ArtSpace Herndon (L to R): Jane Steffen, Scott Pafumi, Arianne’ Warner. Photo by Olive Images.

Scott Pafumi (SP): Theatre is for everyone. We should be celebrating an abundance of theatre options in our communities. Instead of theatre companies feeling in competition with each other, we should be helping each other grow and share in our resources. Theatre by nature is a collaboration of artists, not a competition of mission.

Why No Exit for Dark Horse’s next production?

NP: There’s a reason why Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit is well-known. It is timeless. It is relevant to everyone’s story. I love that the text probes into one’s ethical values and personal limitations. We hope this play offers the audience a chance to question their own mortality, morality, and that which could be the afterlife. It’s both a philosophical and existential play, and should help serve as a springboard for good post-show discussion with fellow patrons.

How will Dark Horse “make” No Exit its own?

NP: Without giving too much away, there are some major surprises in our production. We have found evidence in the text to expand upon certain characters. One thing I can tell you is that we have placed each of the characters from different time periods. This has given us a unique opportunity to explore how the political climate and social norms of these times would meld together in one room.

Dark Horse Theatre in rehearsal for 'No Exit' at ArtSpace Herndon (L to R): Jane Steffen, Arianne' Warner, Scott Pafumi. Photo by Olive Images.
Dark Horse Theatre in rehearsal for ‘No Exit’ at ArtSpace Herndon (L to R): Jane Steffen, Arianne’ Warner, Scott Pafumi. Photo by Olive Images.

SP: We are working hard at making this production unique to our cast, based on our own personal experiences and character types. We have done a lot of mining the text for hidden meanings and backstories. We hope our portrayal will be fresh and vivid, while also respecting the author’s intent.

AW: Whatever we are working on we strive for a new interpretation from a fresh perspective. In this production of No Exit, there are more characters, personas, and time periods on stage than meets the eye.

Tell me a bit about the four actors in Dark Horse Theatre’s No Exit?

NP: Skye Lindberg plays Valet, traditionally played by a male. Lindberg is a graduate of the George Mason University Theatre program. Scott Pafumi is a company member and resident artist at Dark Horse. He brings vast experience and dramatic chops to the role of Joseph Garcin. Jane Steffen is a newcomer to Dark Horse. A veteran actor, she recently moved to the Northern Virginia area. Steffen has a nuanced approach and will be intriguing as Inez Serrano. Arianne’ Warner is compelling and exciting to watch on stage. She is an expert at making strong character choices and creates tremendous depth in the role of Estelle Rigault.

What would you like audience members to come away with after taking in a performance of No Exit?

NP: ArtSpace Herndon is a very special theatrical venue. It is exhilarating to act and direct in. As an audience member, you can appreciate that there is nowhere for the actors to hide. You can’t get away with sleight of hand there. Watching the actors walk this “tightrope” so close to the audience makes for a really thrilling performance. With this being said, and No Exit being staged with arena-style seating, it will really raise the stakes on your theatre experience.

There will be two performance venues for Dark Horse Theatre Company’s No Exit. There will be eight performances at ArtSpace Herndon, 750 Center Street, Herndon, VA from August 16-31. There will be six performances at Grace in the Plains, 6507 Main Street, The Plains, VA from September 6-14. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 student tickets (with valid ID) available at the door and on sale now online.