Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 8:02 a.m.
Off-Leash Area brings their popular neighborhood garage tour back for their fifth season this weekend. The show, Stripe & Spot (Learn to) Get Along, will travel to various suburbs and towns before returning to Minneapolis. The tour is aimed at bringing theater to communities that don't necessarily have a lot of art experiences available.
Photo courtesy Off-Leash Area
The play is about two characters, Stripe and Spot (played by co-artistic director Paul Herwig and Taous Claire Khazem), who are stranded on a desert island on opposite sides. Initially they almost die, but then figure out how to survive, each taking over their side of the island, unaware of the other person's existence. Stripe and Spot, who are portrayed like silent-film characters who don't speak but occasionally mouth words, each declare themselves king of the whole island -- until they discover each other and declare war.
Narrating the course of events are Sun and Moon (played by Jesse Schmitz-Boyd and co-artistic director Jennifer Ilse), two vaudevillian characters inspired in part by the two old men in The Muppet Show, who bitch about the follies of humankind. Throughout the play, they do a lot of physical comedy as well as dance routines.
Photo courtesy Off-Leash Area
The company premiered the show in June at Herwig and Ilse's own garage, where they got feedback about the basic story. Ilse says the show is accessible for kids, but there was lots of layering and nuance that the adults can also enjoy. For example, the jokes the sun and moon tell have contemporary references, as well as a "sprinkling of mild sexual innuendos," says Ilse.
Taking shows to neighborhood garages has been really interesting. "We discovered really quickly that bringing art to people who don't experience a lot of art puts us in a place of being ambassadors," she says. This is especially true for when the troupe travels to distant suburbs. Often, the people who see the show are the friends and neighbors of people hosting the event, so they usually have lots of questions. OLA conducts a casual post-show gathering as a way to interact with people and talk about not just their process but what being artists entails. "We're happy to be able to do that for people interested in learning what artists do," she says.
While OLA doesn't edit their creative process for the touring audiences, they do keep in mind that there are often kids, so they don't do a lot of cursing and they make sure they have access points for young people and adults who haven't seen a lot of theater. "It's less about editing and more about being really clear about what we're doing," she says.
Stripe & Spot (Learn to) Get Along begins this weekend in Stillwater, and upcoming weekends take place in Brooklyn Park, Mendota Heights, Bloomington, Isanti, Plymouth, and Minneapolis. See Off-Leash Area's Tumbr for full details.