For most people looking for a new house, the bedroom-to-bathroom ratio might be at the top of the list of considerations. Or the nearby school system. Or the age of the house.
Not for Rachel Burttram Powers and Brendan Powers. When the Florida couple decided to move back to her home state of Alabama, top of mind was finding a closet big enough for Brendan.
“It had to be at least deep enough to fit a 6’4″ dude sitting on pillows,” Rachel says.
That’s because two years ago, at the start of the pandemic, the Powers, both professional actors, created Tiny Theatre, a weekly Facebook reading of a play, featuring Rachel and Brendan as the cast … live from their closet in their Fort Myers duplex.
The result was readings of hundreds of plays from playwrights who sent their work to the Powers to perform. Some of them, like Tony nominees Tina Howe and Eric Coble, were well-known. Others were hearing their work out loud for the first time.
And when the Powers decided to move closer to Rachel’s parents in Pleasant Grove, they knew they had to bring Tiny Theatre with them. They found what they needed in a house on an acre-and-a-half of land about 10 minutes outside of Tuscaloosa.
They closed on the house Dec. 6 and went live from the new closet on Dec. 15.
“By the evening of Dec. 7, the one room that was complete was the Tiny Theatre closet,” Brendan says with a laugh. “That was the first room we painted.” Adds Rachel, “That either makes us extremely dedicated, or crazy.”
Crazy might have been the answer to that two years ago, but Tiny Theatre took off during the pandemic and has steadily increased in popularity. Anywhere from 15 to 50 or 60 people tune in live at 7:55 p.m. on Wednesday nights, and thousands have accessed the Powers’ plays in their Facebook archive. Florida Weekly named it the region’s Best New Theatre in 2021.
In addition, the Powers took the popularity of Tiny Theatre and created several interactive murder mystery shows that they perform on Zoom for corporate retreats and meetings and other gatherings.
So all of this was on the Powers’ minds as they looked for their Alabama home.
“We needed an additional bedroom that we could convert that had to be a certain size to accommodate all of our rolling props tables and shelves for the shows as well as the tech table/camera set up,” says Rachel, a University of Alabama at Birmingham theater graduate.
Rachel and Brendan met each other doing theater at Florida Repertory Theatre. Both have appeared on a number of regional theater stages and on TV – Rachel most recently as Gus Grissom’s wife in “The Right Stuff” on Disney + and both on Netflix’s “Bloodline.”
The plan is to keep auditioning and acting from their Alabama home base, but they don’t see an end to Tiny Theatre. “It’s been really, really exciting as a longtime theater-maker to get people so excited about what theater can be,” Rachel says. “This looks very different from traditional theater, but we’re always looking at ways to get younger people into the theater, and this is one way.”