The Theater Within: Socially Challenging Theatre

The Theater Within’s has a mission to present cutting edge dramatic and socially conscious work to Indianapolis theater goers in the Circle City. The Theater Within has been producing though provoking plays since it was founded in Fountain Square’s Church Within in 2007. It has quickly gained a reputation for no nonsense plays.

Rod Issac, the founder and artistic director of The Theater Within, was in need of a life makeover when he came up with the idea to create his own theater in Indy. “My life really changed when I found this church,” Issac says, “I had gotten into this negative, gossipy, catty crowd. I had to step away from old ties.”

He approached Pastor Yvonne Brandenburg with the idea to build a theater that focuses its efforts on producing thought provoking plays. Tired of the same old comedies playing stage around Indiana year after year, Issac yearned for more meat. The Church Within’s open minded views seemed a perfect match for his dream. When he asked Pastor Yvonne about starting the theater, she was immediately on board.

Together they produce only plays that challenged their audiences to think, that ask the tough questions, that do not provide any answers. Under their agreement Issac has complete artistic control of the theater. He chooses plays about pressing social matters to create discussion throughout the city of Indianapolis. At times Rod Issac even takes a turn at leading such discussions when the Theatre Within holds post show discussion forums for the audience.


In its first year, the Theater Within opened its season with Neil LaBute’s Bash, a collection of gruesome and difficult stories including one where a woman kills her own child. Then he went on to explore The Laramie Project, a play centered on the tragic events that transpired after a hate crime occurred in Laramie, Wyoming. Next was Imagining Brad, an exploration of the challenges of marriage, with a character that has no arms or legs. He concluded his first season with another Neil LaBute play called, This is How it Goes, another exploration of marriage, this time along racial lines.

In that first season, Rod Issac saw only about a dozen people in the audience at each showing. But as he continues to take risks, his audience continues to grow larger every night. The Theater Within is gaining a reputation in the world of Indianapolis art. As the only Indianapolis performing arts groups with the mission to produce only dramas, the Theater Within is starting to find its following.

As they continue to produce socially challenging material, discussion sparks in the city. Hoosiers ask themselves questions and find themselves disagree over art. The electricity created by Rod Issac’s theater will soon be strong enough to power his own light plot.

As he continues to make a difference in the Indianapolis community through his art, Rod Issac faces a lot of obstacles. With competition from big equity theaters like the Indiana Repertory Theatre and the Phoenix Theatre who are committed to entertaining and engaging through laughter rather than questions, finding an audience base will not be easy. And neither will making a living from the work he produces.

But Issac is firm in his belief in the power of the theatrical experience. He does not need financial rewards as long as he is able to start a good conversation.

The Theater Within
1125 Spruce Street
Indianapolis, IN46230

For more information about current and upcoming performances at the Theater Within, visit their official website.

Past Performances and Reviews

Indianapolis’ Theater Within to Hold Open Auditions
Proof at the Theatre Within: Powerful Indianapolis Theatre
The Mercy Seat @ Theater Within Opens Sept. 11
The Theatre Within Opens Never the Sinner Friday
Theatre Within’s Twilight of the Golds Asks Tough Questions with a Twist
Review: Proof at Theatre Within
Review: Twilight of the Golds at Theatre Within

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