The behind-scenes-blog of Bare Theatre and its affiliates.

Posts tagged “original works

Reflections on WINTER ACTS 2013.

With WINTER ACTS – our fourth annual collection of contemporary one-act plays – under our belt, we’re feeling pretty good. We premiered two original works by North Carolina-raised playwrights, R. Alex Davis (Raleigh) and Jordan Carlson (Tarboro), and presented a little gem from 1967 from Australia’s Pat Flower.

Each night kicked off with a different circus act from Raleigh’s amazing Cirque de Vol Studios, so we want to thank Sara Phoenix for all her help in coordinating those acts.  Lots of thanks and praise go to Paige LaWall (aka “Papyrus”), Liz Bliss Roberts & Julia Hartsell Crews (Jewels) of Carrboro’s Flowjo, Betty Adorno (Lady Gatita), and Adam Dipert.  They truly displayed some awesome talent, and we are looking forward to collaborating with these and other artists on our upcoming show, the circus-themed Comedy of Errors at Raleigh Little Theatre’s Stephenson Amphitheatre.

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Paige LaWall (aka “Papyrus”), Liz Bliss Roberts & Julia “Jewels” Hartsell Crews, and Adam Dipert perform at WINTER ACTS 2013. Photos by Heather J. Strickland and G. Todd Buker.

We also want to thank our wonderful stage manager, Emily Huffman – it is hard to believe this was only the second show she’s ever stage managed!  Our running crew of one, the fabulous Tim Randall, is an absolute champ and somehow managed to perform major surgery on magnetic tape!

Of course, our three casts deserve much love and respect.

Justin Smith and Matt Fields are two of the nicest guys we know, not to mention talented actors.  Asking them to be absolutely terrible people onstage is asking a lot, but they went with it and found their dark sides somehow!

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Matt Fields and Justin Smith in R. Alex Davis’ “The Hitler Youth Knife.” Photo by Jason Bailey.

Mary Forester, Jeff Buckner, and Loren Armitage tackled the strange and wonderful story of Fun House head on. This was a very collaborative process with everyone weighing in on where we had all been, where we were, and where we were going. There is not a better, more supportive team to be stuck in a fun house with.

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Loren Armitage in Jordan Carlson’s “Fun House.” Photo by G. Todd Buker.

“The Tape Recorder” was a really unique process, and I am very thankful for the talent and adaptability of Maegan Mercer-Bourne and Loren Armitage.  It wasn’t an easy play to do, especially for Maegan having to carry a half hour piece without speaking!

Tape Recorder - Miss C concerned

Maegan Mercer-Bourne in Pat Flower’s “The Tape Recorder.” Photo by Jeff Buckner.

One of the highlights of the production was the addition of audience discussions with the playwrights and actors. We learned a lot about each artist’s individual work, the process, and ourselves in sharing those behind-the-scenes pieces with our audiences. We are also grateful for those that stayed after curtain to ask thoughtful, insightful questions.

This show reminded us how good it is to look at new material.  We want to thank all of the playwrights who submitted their work and thank them for the fresh perspectives and new ideas they brought to the table.

Looking forward to next year’s collection!

– GTB & HJS

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“The Hitler Youth Knife.”

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“The Hitler Youth Knife” has been on our desk for a while.  It was written by R. Alex Davis, who performed in our first three Rogue Company productions beginning with Titus Andronicus (2005).  He played Reverend Hale in The Crucible (2006) and the title role in King Lear (2007).

With that background, Alex is obviously no stranger to dark psychological material.  This short play is a disturbing but fascinating study of two college friends.

Mike is typical of many young men – once at university, he pushed his boundaries.  Towards the beginning he got heavily involved with drugs and became sexually promiscuous.  He has since moderated his drug habit, but there is some question about his relationships with women.  He claims to have fallen deeply in love with at least two women in particular, but also seems to have a “love ’em and leave ’em” attitude – which could be an act.

Norman also has gone through some pretty serious experimentation, but doesn’t appear to be as callous with regards to women.  Whereas Mike found meaning in the writings of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, Norman is more interested in religions of the world.  In fact, he seems to fancy himself something of a teacher, perhaps even a prophet of sorts.  He is particularly occupied with atonement and retribution.

Mike and Norman have a young woman in common.  Mike dated Therese first, and took her virginity in a night of drug-fueled excess.  According to Norman, this was not a consensual experience, and Mike’s abusive behavior and callousness towards Therese afterwards left her extremely hurt and confused.

Norman is now with Therese, and he is focused on exacting punishment on Mike.  The two have not spoken to each other for a while, presumably since Norman and Therese have been together.

“The Hitler Youth Knife” is the conversation that occurs when Norman confronts Mike with what he now knows about Mike’s relationship with Therese.

I’ve tapped Matt Fields, who has been performing with Bare since he was 14 (he’s now in college himself), to play Mike.  Matt has been in almost every show I’ve directed.  Justin Smith debuted with Bare in our critically-acclaimed adaptation of NC slave narratives, Let Them Be Heard (2012), and he plays Norman.

Both actors are talented individuals who are fearless onstage.  I am looking forward to the energy they bring to this piece, and I think it will be an electrifying part of WINTER ACTS!

-GTB


We Have a Show.

Winter Acts 2013 web image

Kittens.  Babies.  Warm fuzzies.  These are not things that are part of our next production.

In a way this, our fourth annual collection of contemporary one-act plays, is a return to what began this project.  Five years ago we were doing mostly Shakespeare, and while that is fantastic and fun, we felt a need to stretch ourselves in different ways every now and then.

The first set of one-acts was incredibly dark.

Though it was simply titled Boys & Girls, it contained death of a parent, alcoholism, drug abuse, murder, psychological trauma, molestation, rape and revenge.  It was not the feel-good hit of the summer.

The material was disturbing, and it did push us.  It challenged us as actors and directors, but also challenged the audience – who even got to vote on whether one of the characters lived or died after he confessed his crimes to them.

These one-act collections – which we are now simply calling WINTER ACTS – come about from a variety of processes.  We accept original script submissions each year, we collect interesting plays from a variety of sources, and we workshop new material.  We don’t set out to create a theme, but rather let the various works speak to us and see where that guides our directors.

The goal is to tackle new material and show audiences something different, that they may not otherwise see.  It’s not The Music Man.

We’re kicking off 2013 with an evening of entertainment that will amaze and thrill.  For starters, this WINTER ACTS will feature performance artists from Cirque De Vol Studios in Raleigh.  This is a preview of coming attractions – we’re performing The Comedy of Errors in May with an old-fashioned circus theme in collaboration with Cirque De Vol and their affiliates.

The scripted material gets decidedly more ominous, as you may be able to tell from the title, “The Hitler Youth Knife.”  This is a play from a former member of our Rogue Company student conservatory, R. Alex Davis.  We’ve been talking about doing this short piece for the last three years, but the starts finally aligned this time out.  Playwrights, take note: just because we don’t choose your script one year, it doesn’t mean we won’t ask you about doing it in the future!

Heather is directing a piece called “Fun House” that caught our attention among the scripts from our last call for submissions.  It’s by a young playwright named Jordan Carlson, who is originally from Tarboro, NC (we love doing work from local playwrights!).  This supernatural story keeps twisting in new and creepy ways, and has been a lot of fun in rehearsal.

Finally, we have “The Tape Recorder” by British television writer Pat Flower, a transplant to Australia.  This play was originally a teleplay, and it was the first color transmission of the BBC back in the late 1960’s.  Despite it’s being obviously dated (how many readers remember tape recorders?), it is a fascinating psychological thriller.  It is rare in that it involves two actors, neither of whom has to memorize any lines.  One is seen onstage the whole play, but never speaks; the other is heard but not seen (or is he?).

We’ll post more details in coming posts.  Go ahead and put it on your calendar, though, because we’re only doing one weekend of shows.  Or, grab tickets early: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/323181.

-GTB


On tap for 2013…

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Happy New Year!  Hope you kicked off this year of the snake with a bang.

We are gearing up for what will be an ambitious year.  It will involve collaboration with some amazing artists and organizations in the Triangle and it will be a ton of fun.

We will be returning to our roots and mounting TWO Shakespeare productions this year…but first we will explore short works that have not been previously seen in the area.  Our fourth annual installment of Winter One-Acts at Common Ground Theatre runs February 21-24, and it will be funny and creepy!  More on that to come.

This Spring, mistakes will be made.  We perform Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors at Raleigh Little Theatre’s amphitheater May 24 – June 1.  We are looking to collaborate with Cirque De Vol and local circus artists to turn the town of Ephesus into a vintage circus!  Bring a picnic or grab some grub from a tasty food truck and enjoy amazing feats and mistaken identities under the stars!

Bare Theatre is also in talks with Historic Stagville to remount Let Them Be Heard.  If last year you did not get a chance to see this show, taken from the testimony of former slaves in North Carolina, this is a powerful experience not to be missed.  More details will follow.

This Fall, Artistic Director Heather J. Strickland will return from baby-break to direct Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It at the RLT Amphitheater.  This show is shaping up to be incredible already.  We are partnering with Pinecone – the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music – to create a bluegrass version of the show with live music!

All in all, it’s going to be a good year.  Stay tuned!

-GTB


Reflections on the Age-Old Question, “What Next?” and the Troublesome Questions of Identity and Purpose That Ensue, Part 1

It has been a banner year for Bare Theatre.  Almost twelve months ago we were dusting off “The Shakespeare Zone” for its Raleigh debut at SPARKcon 2011.  “The Zone” is a Bare Theatre original collection of comedic sketches mashing up Shakespeare and modern TV and, despite the rains, it was a crowd pleaser.  This was especially true at Raleigh Ensemble Players, where we huddled out of the cold and damp with a truly appreciative audience.

Two months later we were back onstage with a steampunk-clad version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  This was a big production for us, with 24 cast members (several of whom had several costume changes); video projections that featured flying airships, fireworks, and characters appearing onscreen; a couple of company dance numbers; and a big fight sequence pitting clowns against drunks.

Much Ado was our biggest box office success since the company began, and we had a fantastic three-week run in Durham and Raleigh.

The winter brought our third annual collection of short plays, One Night of Absolute Dismay.  This collection featured three originals and one parody from Christopher Durang, “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls.”  This was our best attended one-acts show so far.

Towards the end of spring we were gearing up for the entire collection of shorts that included “Southern Belle,” Durang’s humbly-titled Durang/Durang.  The show was supposed to go up in May but had to be postponed at the last minute due to the sudden and very sad closure of Raleigh Ensemble Players’ space on Fayetteville St.

So we ended up following Absolute Dismay with an original adaptation of slave narratives from North Carolina, called Let Them Be Heard.  It featured seven monologues performed by African American actors portraying people who had experienced life under slavery and survived to the Great Depression.

We staged these narratives at Historic Stagville in Durham, NC, which had been one of the largest plantations in the South.  The show led four sold-out audiences on a lantern-lit tour across the plantation grounds, beginning in an original slave quarters cabin and ending in the huge Great Barn, hand-built by the slaves in 1860.

Let Them Be Heard was not only our first environmental play, but also our first Kickstarter campaign.  With Kickstarter we successfully raised over $1,400 to cover production costs, which in turn enabled us to donate 100% of the ticket sales – $1,850 – to Historic Stagville, helping the Stagville Foundation preserve the important historical landmark.

Immediately after Heard, we got right back to work with Durang/Durang.  We had a great opening week at Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School in Raleigh, and are finishing out the run in Durham at Common Ground Theatre.

Christopher Durang’s work has been insanely fun, especially after the tragic stories told in Let Them Be Heard.  These six shorts are hilarious, ridiculous, silly and satirical, and as we always do – we have a great group of people involved.  Not to mention, there are a ton of great photos of us in wigs (courtesy of the magnificent Mario Griego) on Facebook!

We’ve stretched ourselves, pushed the envelope, and had a blast in the process.  Now that our eighth full season (yes, eighth full season!) has begun, we are faced with a question of identity.

We’ve done a lot of Shakespeare – almost half the canon at this point.  We’ve done plays by Miller, Pinter, Stoppard and Durang.  We’ve done a slew of original works from playwrights around the country.  The question for me lately is: does the work define us or do we define the work?

I keep coming back to the latter answer.  What makes us “Bare” is not necessarily what we do – it’s how we do it.

We are “Bare” because we tell stories with intensity and passion using little more than a room, some actors, and the text.  Everything that happens between those elements is what hopefully makes our work worth watching.

It’s not an option for us to rely on production values.  This limitation is actually what I find the most liberating about Bare Theatre.  When you don’t have money, or set, or a ton of crew members, you have to get creative.  You have to use your imagination.

We are constantly challenged by the fact that we do not have a performance space of our own.  Common Ground has been a great home to us in Durham, but it has always been difficult to find suitable venues in Wake County and Raleigh.

That ongoing search has led me to a conclusion: that we embrace the challenge of finding venues that fit the pieces, and make that a central part of what we do.  The experience at Stagville proved that we could create a one-of-a-kind experience with nothing more than actors, text, a location, and lanterns.

It doesn’t get any more Bare than that.

In Part 2, I’ll talk about The Next Show and Where We Go From Here…

-GTB