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By Kevin Gray

A logo with a grenade image that declares “theatre exploding with thought” is a clue that Thinking Cap is not typical community arts fare.

Nicole Stodard '99, logo for Thinking Cap Theatre

Founded by Nicole Stodard ’99, the Ft. Lauderdale company is being lauded by critics and audiences for its daring approach. Stodard  received “best director” awards from the New Times for Sarah Kane’s Cleansed  (2011) and Aphra Behn’s The Rover (2012).

South Florida’s Silver Palm Award for the 2012-13 season recognized her “for producing consistent and outstanding presentations of daring and challenging works.”

Nicole Stodard '99 works with cast members in rehearsal.

Nicole Stodard ’99 (far right) works with members of the cast.

Stodard, artistic director for the theatre she founded in 2010, says, “Many of the plays I’m attracted to treat issues related to women, gender, and the LGBTQ community. I also have a thing for dark comedies. To me, it’s the genre that’s most reflective of life. We’re known for presenting works that would otherwise probably never find a home on a South Florida stage.”

Joshua Conkel’s MilkMilkLemonade, a dark comedy about growing up gay in America’s heartland, and Nick Mwaluko’s Waafrika, a brutal investigation of patriarchy, homophobia, and female genital mutilation in 1990s Kenya, are indicative of the scope.

Stodard’s interest in drama flourished at Lafayette.

Suzanne Westfall has been an invaluable inspiration and mentor,” says the English graduate. “Her classes were not just interesting, but also entertaining. She instilled in me an appreciation for research that has stayed with me.”

A doctoral candidate at University of South Florida, Stodard earned a master’s degree in theater at Trinity College, Dublin. Before founding Thinking Cap, she blogged at Drama Daily, wrote theater reviews, studied contemporary theater, and read many new plays.

In February, her company presented the Florida premiere of Pool (No Water) by Mark Ravenhill, artistinresidence at Royal Shakespeare Company. This spring, Stodard and her crew will move into The Vanguard, a renovated church that will be “a sanctuary for the arts” and permanent venue for Thinking Cap Theatre.

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