P.J. Riley

Innovative Modular Stage Donated to Thrown Stone

A chance encounter propels Thrown Stone years into the future

On the sunny afternoon of June 3, 2017, Thrown Stone Production Manager Cyrus Newitt was at the Murray Hill Street Fair in Manhattan. The Snarks, Ltd., a local theatre institution, was attending in costume as historic Murray Hill characters, and Cyrus was their J.P. Morgan. So it was, in tops and tails, that he was introduced to Paula J. Riley, Artistic Director of The Spiral Theatre Studio.

Over the course of many years, the Spiral had developed an innovative theatrical concept: The Spiral Stage. With eight modular rhombus-shaped platforms, the stage can be configured to create an endless array of immersive environments. And since each piece can be easily moved by actors, these environments can morph right before the audience’s eyes. Built sustainably — literally at a 1-horse-powered sawmill in Pennsylvania — this stage was designed with the intent of reducing the cost and waste inherent in set builds and load-ins.

Unfortunately, the Spiral lost its lease last year, and the theatre was moved into storage. Paula (who goes by P.J.) scrambled to find a new home for her dream theatre, but sudden health issues forced her retirement. The stage was offered to other avant-garde groups in the city, but no one had the space for it.

Cyrus explained that Thrown Stone has no physical theatre, and instead performs in locations selected for each play. He told P.J. about Thrown Stone’s Theatre in a Box concept, where over time, we planned to acquire and assemble a modular set of lighting and stage components that could fit on a truck, and turn any location into a performance space. Admittedly, the concept was nowhere near as mature as the Spiral Stage, we had already invested in a few key pieces.

Cyrus and P.J. discovered that both companies had a passion for new work. P.J. described the Spiral’s “Salt & Pepper” series for “seasoned” citizens, and Cyrus mentioned the theme of intergenerational connection in Thrown Stone’s upcoming production of Milk by Ross Dunsmore, and how that is the subject of the July 16 post-performance discussion, led by Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi.

It was then that P.J. made a transformational offer: The Spiral Stage, all their lighting equipment — and even 50 chairs for the audience — could belong to Thrown Stone if we could give them a new artistic home.

At a conference call the next day, the Artistic Directors accepted, and the dream of Theatre in a Box quickly became a working reality. The Spiral Stage will create a signature aesthetic for future productions, and P.J. Riley will be recognized as a Founding Sponsor.

“When we started, Theatre in a Box was an abstract idea,” said Thrown Stone co-founder Jonathan Winn. “It was really born of necessity, since we were a company without a permanent space.”

“Then suddenly it was all real,” added Thrown Stone co-founder Jason Peck. “We all looked at one another after the call with tears in our eyes. We’re so honored to be able to continue the legacy P.J. built and grateful for the donation.”

“I am so pleased that the Spiral stage has found a home,” said P.J. “I think we’ve found the ideal place to allow this vision to evolve.”

Thrown Stone now has the capability and agility to mount world-class productions almost anywhere. We invite you to take part in this exciting new future.


Thrown Stone’s U.S. premiere of Milk runs July 14-30 at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance.

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One comment

  1. Deb Stone says:

    Cyrus told me about this, but it’s wonderful to read all about it here. Fabulous! Congratulations! Looking forward to seeing the play this Saturday night!

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