By Sarah Hammill

theatreco.jpgDiscouraged by the lack of young adult themes in current Santa Barbara theater — as in relationships, sex, and finding your way, as opposed to the “young adult” genre for teens and pre-teens — Sara Martinovich, Brendon Flemming, Michael Conrad Jr., and Kate Paulsen (pictured, left to right) teamed up to form The Loose Affiliation of Artists. And after months of planning, the brand-spanking- new theater company is kicking off its inaugural season with Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things.

The four-person play — about a student who drifts into a complicated relationship with an art major while his best friend’s engagement crumbles — forces the audience to ask the questions: How far would you go for love? For art? The answer to the latter, at least for Loose Affiliation, is as far as it takes. In order to draw a younger crowd to the performance last week, the group presented a free preview show, a risky endeavor for any struggling theater company merely hoping to break even with each production. For each of the remaining six performances, the company will hold a beer and wine cocktail hour before the start of the shows. And ticket prices, which elsewhere can range from $20-$40, are selling at a mere $10 a pop for anyone 30 or younger. For those older than 30, tickets go for $15.

“We really wanted to find a way to make theater relevant to our generation,” Conrad explained. “And we figured, hey, just because you aren’t a student anymore doesn’t mean you should have to pay 30 bucks to see a good play.”

The Shape of Things runs September 28-30 and October 5-7 at Center Stage Theater at 8 p.m., with cocktails at 7 p.m. So do yourself a favor — break out of your weekend movie rut, and get yourself a healthy dose of bona fide culture.

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