Onsite Theatre Commission: Day 1

Whenever I start a new project, a little voice in my head does something like the 3-card monty monologue from Topdog/Underdog:

Booth: Watch me close watch me close now: who-see-thuh-red-card-who-see-thuh-red card? I-see-thuh-red-card. Thuh-red-card-is-thuh-winner. Pick-thuh-red-card-you-puck-uh-winner. Pick-uh-black-card-you-pick-uh-loser. Theres=thuh-lose, yeah, theres-thuh-black-card, theres-thuh-other-loser-and-theres-thuh-red-card,-thuh-winner. (Rest). Watch me close watch me close now.

Watch me close. Here thuh rules of thuh game.

1. Genre: Site-specific play.
2. Location: Huckleberry Inn Hostel in Soulard
3. Cast Size: 3W, 2M
4. Structure: A dramatic diptych: two intersecting one-acts structured similarly to Ayckbourn’s House and Garden
5. Length: two concurrent 25-minute acts
6. Requests: Comedy

Alright. Well. It certainly doesn’t have the same rhythm as Booth’s hustle when I write it out like that. It looks more like a baseball stat card. But in my head, the information flows like a street game.

To say that this is Day 1 is a bit disingenuous. I have been in talks with the artistic director of OnSite Theater Company since mid-January. I have worked with this company twice in the past. The first time was their very first show, which took place in a bowling alley and I shared the bill with my playwriting mentor Carter Lewis. I set out to write eight 10-minute plays that would happen simultaneously on eight different lanes, but I think I only ended up writing four, and they only decided to do two. I didn’t really embrace—or just didn’t understand—the strength inherent to site-specific theater: naturalism. It seems so obvious. I can’t remember what those plays were about, but they certainly weren’t naturalism. But my second collaboration with them took place at a photo studio, and I arguably went too far in the other direction. It was happening during primary season for the 2008 election, so there was a major digression into Hilary versus Obama. My favorite line: “Obama? For president? Come on. Maybe for poet laureate.” That got a laugh. The review, if I am remembering correctly, said something like “Okay, great, but when will this ever get done again.” Which (thank you for your concern miss critic) was the point! Site-specific theater should be specific not only to a location but also a moment in time, right?

Well maybe. I hate the term “universal” because it seems so vain—as if the rest of the universe gives a shit what we do—but for lack of a better one (human-ersal? Sounds like a supplement), no theater should be devoid of a beauty and a truth that can travel. The play in the photo studio will never get another life because it shouldn’t: it’s done. But perhaps the goal should be to create a play that people would want to do in other hostels. There are a lot of hostels in the world . . . could be a fun get-to-know-you-exercise for guests. I remember backpacking around Italy staying in hostels, and I didn’t speak to a soul. I was shy, and thus I was lonely . . . hmmm. Rule #7: play should translate into being an awesome icebreaker for the quiet kids.

Rule #8: Play should be created by the end of March, giving me 31 days from tonight.

Game on!

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