Bricolage, Redeye: Theater on the fly
Share with others:
"B.U.S." means Bricolage Urban Scrawl.
"Redeye" means ... well, what usually happens when you've been up all night.
Both are local play-in-a-day projects, a theater game that's recently caught on here. The basic scheme is to produce a group of short plays from scratch in 24 hours. "It's about not getting any sleep," said playwright Ted Hoover about last year's B.U.S.
The Redeye Theatre Project is a student-run 24-hour-play company at the University of Pittsburgh, which Saturday hosts its eighth student "festival" (as they call it). Sunday, using professional playwrights and actors, Bricolage Production Company stages its second B.U.S.
Redeye begins at 8 p.m. Friday by handing its eight writers "prompts," and expects to arrive at 8 p.m. Saturday with eight 10- to 15-minute plays ready to perform to a full Pitt Studio Theatre. Its chief goal is the experience of the collaboration.
Bricolage stretches its day for several hours, gathering its six playwrights at 5 p.m. Saturday and sending them off on 90-minute bus rides, expecting them to present six 10-minute plays at 8 p.m. Sunday in its new ground-floor space at 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
For Bricolage, B.U.S. is an expression of its mission, which is to make artful use of whatever it can lay its hands on. But the Sunday event is also a money-raiser to provide funds for this year's six-month staged reading series.
It's also "a way to engage the community," says artistic director Jeffrey Carpenter, "an opportunity to cross a broad spectrum of the theater scene and to celebrate this process. ... We also want to develop relationships with writers."
Whether any of the short plays will go on to have a future life isn't the point, although they may. This year's playwrights (France Luce Benson, Jeanne Drennan, Wali Jamal, Jim McManus, David Turkel and Stacey Vespaziani), as well as last year's (Ted Hoover, Melissa Martin, Maureen McGranaghan, Tammy Ryan, Mark Clayton Southers and Turkel) have enough of a track record to attempt the height of this kind of thing, the 10-minute play contest at Louisville's Humana Festival.
The six directors who will be matched to the scripts the playwrights turn in Sunday morning are Kellee Van Aken, Melanie Dryer, Sheila McKenna, Matt M. Morrow, Jason Nodler and Mark Clayton Southers. The playwrights will have chosen their actors the night before, before beginning to write ("in an NFL-style draft," says Carpenter), from a pool of 23.
Bricolage is also using B.U.S. to introduce its new home performing space, on which it's just signed a two-year lease. Last year B.U.S. introduced its space on the third floor at 937 Liberty, but the company has moved up in the world, which means down, to the first floor, which can accommodate an audience of 150.
Before and after Sunday's show there will be drinks and "food from some of Pittsburgh's finest restaurants," plus a silent auction of sports, theater, film and spa packages, art, sports memorabilia, etc.
The Pitt student group focuses on the process, without these extras. Its president and veep are Cory Tamler and Sarah Heffner. Tamler proposed the first festival, having heard about similar programs elsewhere. Since fall 2005, they've averaged two festivals each term, growing in popularity until about 70 students (mainly from Pitt, but also elsewhere) are involved each time, performing for a packed house of 120.
Tamler says it's been exciting to watch the idea take off. Four times as many people showed up for their organizing meeting as they expected, and soon the older students who at first hung back were jumping on board.
While Bricolage recruits its participants, Redeye puts up sign-up sheets. The executive board (Earl Haines, Ashley Martin and Ryan Howard, in addition to Tamler and Heffner) decides who gets to do what, especially among the writers, where there are always too many volunteers. The process is as democratic as possible, and as with Bricolage, the writers choose their actors but must use all the actors in the pool.
Redeye's playwriting "prompts" have varied. Once they handed out brief "News of the Weird" stories from City Paper; once they assigned famous playwrights or styles to emulate. This year's won't be known until the playwrights arrive Friday at 8 p.m. Bricolage relies on the bus trip to be its prompt, although it also asks each actor to supply a prop and a costume piece, which the playwrights can use if they choose.
It's an adventure. And if previous examples are a guide, the result for the audience is a giddy grab-bag and a celebration of creativity under pressure.
For a seven-minute video of last year's B.U.S., visit www.webbricolage.org/video_test.html. This year's cast is Karen Baum, Lissa Brennan, Marika Christie, David Conley, Nadia Cook-Loshilov, Lisa Ann Goldsmith, Lonzo Green, John Gresh, Rebecca Harris, Mary Harvey, Robert Isenberg, Miki Johnson, Patrick Jordan, Randy Kovitz, Jason McCune, Amy Marsalis, Elena Passarello, Mary Rawson, Carter Redwood, Joshua Reese, Ezra Leslie Smith, Gayle Stevenson and Dereck Walton.
B.U.S. performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown; the fare is $75 and few spaces remain; 412-394-3353 or www.proartstickets.org.
Redeye performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Pitt Studio Theatre, Cathedral of Learning; $5 suggested donation at the door.
First Published January 11, 2007 12:00 am