8/10/2022        BARE ESSENTIALS PLAY READING SERIES    2022 Essential Theatre Play Festival

NOTE:   I will be unable to wend my way Fulton-County-ward to see these readings, but I will be able to give all y’all a “sneak peek” of two of these plays.  Hopefully this will encourage you to be my eyes and ears at the live readings, supporting these artists. 

The 2022 Essential Theatre Play Festival

Essential Theatre
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FRANKIE &

JASMINE &

KATE &

JUSTIN &

MAX

 

Shark Week by Anneka Rose      8/22/2022

directed by Cameryn Richardson

 

Characters

Francesca - sophomore mid-year transfer, will soon become Frankie

Jasmine - sophomore, underdog for valedictorian, Francesca’s roommate

Kate - junior prefect, a normal teenager

Max - a senior jock that also does theater so he’s “in touch with his emotions”, basically a fuckboy Troy Bolton

Justin - Max’s roommate and best friend, a follower

 

Setting

Present, a boarding school in the forest

 

Notes

Kids go to boarding school for very similar reasons, but they come from very different places. Keep this in mind while casting.

 

Staging

The stage should be separated into three spaces: Francesca and Jasmine’s room, the common room in the middle, and Max and Justin’s room. Each character’s side of their room (their bed, desk, etc) should be representative of them (aka posters, bedding, lack of decoration). It should be clear what belongs to whom in these spaces. Any other settings should easily roll on and off the stage.

 

On stage, there should be a clock that does not tell time. Instead, it looms as a countdown until Shark Week.

 

You may ask (and you probably should) what can a Boomer male educated in a suburban public school in the 1960’s know about being a boarding school female in 2022?

 

The answer may surprise you.

 

Welcome to Shark Week, a fast-paced, often acerbic, sometimes sentimental look at a group of ”privileged” teenagers.  I put “privileged” in quotes because at least one of them is a scholarship student who overworks herself to near catatonia to keep up, more than one comes from a broken home, and all of them have issues that are too tightly packed to resolve in a mere 117-page script.  If this is “privilege” it’s something devoutly to be avoided.

 

Did I mention that they all use the High School Play (a teacher’s self-indulgent take on the Scottish Play) as their “after class athletic elective?”   What’s not to love about that!

 

Francesca (hereinafter referred to as “Frankie” because “nicknames are so cool”) is the new kid from the south (Savannah GA to be precise).   Jasmine is the Type A valedictorian-wannabe who is her roommate.  Kate is the dorm prefect, supposedly the mature one “in charge” but who happens to be the dorm’s source of quality weed.  Across the common area are the guys – Max and Justin.

 

In the course of the play the characters hook up, break apart, discuss dating vs friending vs sexing, discuss Twilight and Harry Potter, play “F**k, Marry, or Murder,” make dubious choices, “synchronize cycles” (the titular “shark week”), and bond.  Essentially, they act like teenagers.

 

What is singularly surprising is how much this particular Boomer-male-educated-in-a-suburban-public-school-in-the-1960’s recognized the hopes, fears, tragedies, victories, and mistakes made by each of these characters.  I recognize the abuse and tactics used by the boys to “get what they want” from the girls, and, to a subtler degree, the tactics used by the girls in response.  Even though these characters could be my grandchildren (if I had opted to mate and multiply when I was in my 20’s), they could also be my high school friends and nemeses and crushes.

 

Ms. Rose has written a crackerjack little not-quite-coming-of-age play, filled to the margins with sparkling dialogue and tightly-focused characterizations, pinballing from situation to moment to crisis with the speed and volatility of, well, a hormonal teenager.  Along the way, she succeeds in layering on pointed commentary about sexuality, gender roles, and psychological assault.  Each act ends with a burst of imaginative wish-fulfillment that says more about the characters than most plays (written by alleged post-adolescents) can muster.  The playwright knows these kids, knows this milieu.  She knows whereof she writes, and it is a joy to read.

 

For any production of this play, there will be serious challenges for an Intimacy Director, and it would take a brave production to cast age-appropriate actors here.  That being said, there are scenes that explode off the page, that I would dearly love to see them explode off the stage.   Some day.

 

Add Shark Week to the (mostly empty) roster of plays about adolescence that actually get adolescence right.

BARBIE’S DREAM REVOLUTION

 

Barbie Liberation Organization By Robert Fuson     8/10/2022

directed by Kati Grace Brown

 

Time The events of this play take place from 1980 through 2020

 

Characters

BARBIE: 50-60 white female

G. I. JOE: 50-60 white male

MILZY: 20-30 POC androgynous, non-binary* preferable

 

Setting The stage is the interior of a log cabin. A kitchen is stage right and a den area stage left with a door leading off into the bedroom. A fireplace sits upstage center. There are windows on either side, and a snow-covered forest is visible through it. The furniture should be 1980’s chic, resembling a mountain getaway home.

 

How much of your existence do you imagine in your own control?  How much is determined by your upbringing, your gender, your age, your politics, your genes, your whatever-you-want-to-blame-for-your-choices-this-week? 

 

How much of your existence do you imagine in your own control?  How much is determined by your upbringing, your gender, your age, your politics, your genes, your whatever-you-want-to-blame-for-your-choices-this-week? 

 

Mr. Fuson has devised an achingly funny play that uses the iconic Mattel toys in their traditional roles, in non-traditional roles, in a few whatever-you-can-imagine roles. G.I. Joe has rescued Barbie from whatever war he is fighting and brings her to his family cabin, a haven from whatever war she needed rescue from.  A mysterious fireplace is continually fed by his blood and by the gradually disappearing forest visible through the cabin’s windows.  From the fire comes everything they need to live – food, clothes, toys, heat, and replacement strings-with-rings, those ubiquitous tools that put words in plastic mouths.

 

But, in Mr. Fusin’s imagination, the words are the least of the controls – each character has only a single phrase that is heard when the rings are pulled.  Here, the cords also control attitudes and roles.  When they lose the rings, Barbie and Joe become agents of their own actions and thoughts.  When they regain the cords, they are pawns of the ‘50’s paradigms that created them.  And when they switch rings, they switch roles. Barbie cursing and going out to chop wood and kill Commies, Joe puttering around the kitchen and worrying about his looks.

 

What kind of parents would they make?  I’m sure Milzy will have a few choice comments about that.

 

Barbie Liberation Organization is a look at familiar characters making unfamiliar choices.  It is filled with funny dialogue and outrageous twists of fate and compressed time and answers to questions about Dolls’ Lives we never thought to ask.  More to the point, this is a trenchant examination and uprooting of traditional gender and family roles.

 

It is also filled with staging challenges that will cause nightmares to designers and directors and actors, but with solutions that might, (I say MIGHT) stretch the resources of any company making the attempt.

 

It was a very enjoyable read, and I daresay, tonight’s reading will be worth the journey Fulton-ward.

 

     Brad Rudy   (BKRudy@aol.com)