What do you get when you mix six playwrights, six directors, and some actors, then throw in a few historical events, weird websites, and free food? You get this month's Madness, presented by the Unit Collective. The series' latest installment, A Mad Thanksgiving Potluck, features brand new plays at the Playwrights' Center.
The event, which began in 2009, has welcomed more people and become more organized over the years, says Unit Collective member Jessica Huang. The group currently has six members, all of whom are playwrights. There's also a core group of artists -- mainly actors and directors -- who work with the writers each month, and several guest writers usually join the group for each installment as well.
The Unit Collective has also collaborated with several other organizations to form community partnerships. Last year, they worked with Seward Neighborhood Group and Bedlam to create a neighborhood-focused Madness event. They also collaborated with Bedlam for Bedlam's 10 Minute Play Festival. Other programming has included two Fringe Festival shows: a "best of" Madness and a collage piece written with Unit Collective playwrights.
Scene from 'Living Will' by Anton Jones at a past Madness event
Huang says that the group hopes to implement a full-scale, collaboratively created production this year. They will also continue to strive to find alternative methods of producing new work, nurturing new artists, and maintaining their deep community investment.
A Mad Thanksgiving Potluck features various "ingredients" that the playwrights were required to include in their scripts. First, they were given an assignment write a play based on a headline from the day of their birth. For example, one playwright chose an article about a woman wanting to be impregnated by her dead husband's sperm.
Scene from 'Slavish' by Joe Louis Cedillo at a past Madness event
Later, they were given a website, suggested from Facebook, that had to be incorporated into the script somehow. Sites included mypillowpets.com, personal ads on Craigslist, and a page where Darth Vader cries "No!" when you push a button.
During their Give to the Max fundraiser, contributors could offer words or sentences with each donation. Some of the words playwrights were required to use include "bodacious," "channel," and "endow." Phrases include "but that I won't make it to the new transformer's movie" and "nothing but the last sun falling and the oily water by the docks."
Huang's article comes from December 7, 1986, when President Reagan admitted that "there were mistakes made" in the diversion of arms to Iran. The website that she has to incorporate into her script is Awkwardfamilyphotos.com. She's written a play about two characters, Liberty and Justice, who argue about the best way to go about things.
According to Anton Jones, who is the producing playwright for this month's installment, the collective has changed quite a bit since starting. While the event began initially with the intention to support playwrights of color, they have since expanded to include any underrepresented group, including race, class, and gender. "We're super excited about this year," Jones says.
IF YOU GO:
Madness: A Mad Thanksgiving Potluck
The Playwrights' Center
7 p.m. Tuesday, November 30
Food begins at 7 p.m., with the performance at 7:30 p.m.
Admission is donation based