'That's What She Said' according to Unit Collective

Since October of 2010 the Unit Collective, a group of emerging playwrights and theater artists of color, has been hosting a monthly Mpls Madness Series at the Playwrights' Center. The event features 10-minute plays based on a single theme. On the day of the reading scripts are given to directors and actors, and then staged with minimal rehearsals (about a half hour).

More than just a reading, the Madness series features actors up on their feet, in front of an audience. "It is our belief that for playwrights to become empowered and master their craft, they must have a larger understanding of how their voice functions on the stage," the group's Facebook page states. "We believe that playwrights can only grow as artists by seeing their plays on their feet in front of an audience."

Jessica Huang, a Chinese-American playwright, has had her work produced at the Red Eye, participated in the Bridges Program with Pangea, and had her material performed in New York. Huang says that writers of color face additional challenges in getting their work seen and produced. According to her, one of the reasons that the Unit Collective was formed was because "we feel we can do more together as a group than we could do individually."

In addition, the Unit Collective makes it a point to reach communities that may not have had access to theater. The Minneapolis Madness Series is free (donations are accepted) and there's a food/social time before the show, to make it more fun. "There's a lot of energy, and it's certainly chaotic," she says. The group uses word of mouth and social networking to raise awareness of performances.  

Members of the Unit Collective include Anton Jones, Eric "Pogi" Sumangil, Reginald Edmund, Indira Addington, Jessica Huang, and Saymoukda Vongsay. There are also a couple of members who live out of town and sometimes present their work. Last summer the group produced a show at the Minneapolis Fringe festival, and Huang says they hope to produce a fully staged production of a full-length play in the future. 

This month's theme is to include as many "that's what she said" (TWSS) setups as possible, which means turning a simple comment into an innuendo. For examples of this type of joke, visit the Urban Dictionary, or head over to the Playwrights' Center this Tuesday. The writer whose piece has the most TWSS setups will win the coveted Madness Trophy, along with other prizes. There will also be awards for the best TWSS setup as well. Joseph Scrimshaw, from Joking Envelope, will be a guest artist.

Mpls Madness: That's What She Said starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 25, at the Playwrights' Center (2301 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis).  

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