The Year in Theater

 

ZACH CURTIS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE DIRECTORS THEATER AND FIFTY FOOT PENGUIN THEATER

The eight coolest things I saw this year, that made me laugh, cry, cheer, and reminded me why we all try to do this for a living (in no particular order):

Thanks for a great year.

 

MATTHEW FOSTER (ARTISTIC DIRECTOR) AND LEIGHA HORTON (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR), MINISTRY OF CULTURAL WARFARE

For WASP/Unveiling at BLB, we decided to have cartoonish sets (read: an inflatable, nuclear-green living room) for "WASP" and a mildly funky set (read: furniture we already owned) for "Unveiling." It was decided to use the couch belonging to our set builder, Mike, since he lives upstairs from BLB. Little did we realize two major flaws in an otherwise perfect plan: One, that Mike would want to use his couch when it wasn't onstage, and, two, that couches owned by cat-owning smokers are--and we assign no blame here--filled with dust, dander, and other allergens.

These two flaws necessitated two members of the cast and crew (none of whom are of the muscled sort) hauling a couch capable of seating three grown-ups comfortably, through one door, down a steep flight of stairs, through another door, onto Lake Street, through one last door that locks from the inside, and onto the stage, as a third cast member scurried underfoot, held doors, and answered the bemused questions of passersby. This was during our ten-minute intermission.

During performances, the couch looked great, and our theater-folk comrades complimented the apparent speed of moving such a big object and the shabby stylishness of the object's fabric. However, at the end of "Unveiling," when it was time for Leigha to throw a temper tantrum to end all temper tantrums--which included, natch, beating up on the couch--a "poof" of the aforementioned dust and dander would dislodge itself and become acutely visible under the unforgiving stage lights. We could never tell if the audience was laughing at the poof or not.

Then, of course, it was time to take the couch off the stage, through one door onto Lake Street (to the somewhat confused looks of the fine people who had just paid to see that couch), then the other door, up the stairs, through the last door, and back into Mike's apartment.

We did that eight times. Our next show is going to be called A Card Table, A Music Stand, and Two Folding Chairs.

 

MITCHELL BUCKY FAY, ACTOR, WRITER, DIRECTOR

My group, The Cromulent Shakespeare Company, was all set to do a play called Theatre 101, about a small college that has blown its budget and has to do the entire theater major in one night. Well, at first we were set to open at the new Phoenix Playhouse in January. January came and went--no space, no new theater. So then it was going to be March. March came and went--no space. There had been a possibility of doing it at the Acadia in September, but the new guy there is as hard to track down as bin Laden.

At last, the Phoenix is going to open again! We'll do the show in October, as long as we can get the stage built, lights hung, walls painted, etc. We open, we do a couple of weekends...and then the inspectors shut us down.

We end up doing one last show at my school's cafeteria, hanging sheets over the vending machines and duct-taping small lights from the drop ceiling. Our green room was an Argosy University hallway, and you could hear some of the animals in the kennels below us. It was primitive and as fly-by-night as it comes...and it was great! Maybe sometimes a crisis just brings out the best in everyone.

 

STACIA KRAMER, ACTOR

Last Spring I did a show with Ann Michels called David's Redhaired Death. The two of us spent most of the show sitting, laying down, and rolling on a raked bed, delivering mostly tremendously dramatic lines. One night during the first act the two of us spent a lot of the time looking at each other with suspicion because there was a terrible odor. We realized, finally, that one of the theater's resident cats had peed all over our bed and it was completely soaked to the supporting boards. And though the stage manager tried to Febreze that stench from our set (washing was not an option as the bed was permanently "made"), we spent our five remaining shows cooking in cat pee under the hot lights.

 

CRAIG WRIGHT, PLAYWRIGHT

Ten Thousand Things' production of The Most Happy Fella was notable for its deep sincerity, great performances, and overall cockeyed optimism. Aimee Bryant and Stephen D'Ambrose were amazingly touching as a mismatched couple trying to make the best of a difficult situation and, as always, Michelle Hensley's minimalist production values were far more evocative and affecting than many of the million-dollar worlds that routinely get assembled in the touring houses of our fair cities. And if periodically preferring Ms. Hensley's low-tech vision to the lavishness of Broadway betrays a sliver of liberal elitism, count me in; there's more than one way to be a populist. Whether a given Ten Thousand Things production is an aesthetic success (as Happy Fella was) or not, I always leave Ms. Hensley's shows feeling like a real human being on a real planet with real moral choices and real opportunities to grow and give. And when you get a little song to hum on the way out the door, what could be better than that?

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