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Out and About: Theater Times Three

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Posted on March 17, 2016 | Blog Category:
By Jessie Raymond



Given the nature of the last two Addison Independent community calendar events I attended, and one I will be attending this weekend, the theme of this post will be “The Theatah.” (In my head, I pronounce it in the snooty, British aristocrat way because that’s how I’ve always tended to think of the theater: highbrow, a bit pretentious, and not something meant for those of us who are perfectly happy to stay home and watch Netflix.)

But, as I’m learning, The Theatah doesn’t necessarily deserve such a reputation (and I’m saying that only partly because I have fairly recently, and inexplicably, started writing plays). The last two productions I attended were highly entertaining, and I have to tell you: If you’re avoiding plays because you think they’re too esoteric, you’re missing out on some great local talent.

TOWN HALL THEATER

In February, I went to the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury to see a night of two one-act comedies: “Black Comedy” by Peter Shaffer and “The Real Inspector Hound” by Tom Stoppard. Full disclosure: As a person who shies away from plays loaded with too much gravitas, symbolism (that I don’t get) or literary references, I tend to favor comedies and musicals.

Granted, I knew in advance that I was in for a good time because I had several personal connections to people in the play. For instance, I knew Joanna Colwell, a Middlebury yoga teacher (and Addison Independent “Ways of Seeing” columnist), who let her secret wild side fly in “Black Comedy.”

And in “The Real Inspector Hound,” Leigh Guptill had the role of Inspector Hound himself. Leigh and I first met while waiting tables together at Amigos (in the space that is now Sabai Sabai on Merchants Row, just a few doors down from the THT) some 27 years ago. Ack.

In addition, “Inspector Hound” was directed by my friend and co-worker Trent Campbell, the Addison Independent’s intrepid (and very talented) photographer. Trent had taken a directing class with THT executive director Doug Anderson last year, and this was his first production. I got the fun of following his progress from when he first pitched the idea of this production to Middlebury Community Players right through auditions and rehearsals to seeing it on stage.

MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH SCHOOL

Then, just last week, I went to Middlebury Union High School’s senior play, “The Princess Bride.” I did not have a kid in the production, but I did know many of them and their parents. And I knew director Shannon Bohler, whom I first met when I randomly chose her name out of a hat to act in my first 10-minute “Pop Up Play” at the THT two years ago.

I confess: I’m more loyal to the book “The Princess Bride” than the movie. It was written by William Goldman (who wrote, among many other things, “Marathon Man” and the screenplay for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”). But seeing the stage version performed by a group of earnest yet fun-loving students last Friday night — and laughing out loud repeatedly — I think I’ll be revisiting the movie version.

Some of the actors are going on to pursue drama in college. Others were in the play as a way to round out their high school careers with their peers. It didn’t matter whether they possessed raw talent or just gleeful enthusiasm. Seeing them enjoy themselves on stage reminded me why I’m starting to really like the theater: A play is immediate and fleeting. Sure, you lose out by not being able to hit rewind and watch the best parts again, but you gain by being fully invested in the experience as it happens.

POP UP PLAYS

Finally, I will be attending THT’s third annual Pop Up Plays event this Saturday night. I’ll be exhausted by then, since I will have stayed up all night Friday writing one of the six 10-minute plays that will be performed.

In just over 48 hours I will be watching a play that I wrote, one that does not exist yet. I don’t know who the cast members are, how many there will be, or if they are men or women. I don’t know even remotely what it’s about. And to write it, I will be pulling an all-nighter — insane, given that my brain shuts down after 9 p.m.

I do know that this year’s theme is “Things on Wheels.” So there’s that. There will also be a single line that all six plays will be required to incorporate, which was decided on by visitors to the THT website (I believe polling is now closed).

Whatever I come up with, the final — hopefully funny — product will be the result of fatigue, panic and “curveball” elements thrown in by THT’s Haley Rice. Over 12 hours, it will be shaped into a finished product by whatever director and cast it ends up with, and will join five other 10-minute plays on Saturday night.

You can call the Pop Up Play concept crazy, fun, inspired, rough around the edges (hopefully not), or (hopefully) a great night of theater. Just don’t call it The Theatah.

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