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Sunday, July 10, 2011

SL ARTS & LITERATURE: A.R.T. Serves Up A Gourmet Feast of Theater!

MadameThespian Underhill and Darius Debruyere in Back Burner
I admit it.  I put down the big article I have been working on for weeks on Stories in Second Life because I went to the theater this afternoon.  It was the virtual theater, and Avatar Repertory Theater’s (A.R.T.) opening weekend of their Virtual Short Play Buffet.  A.R.T. promotes the performance with this phrase: “Life is a banquet, and so is theater. Put on your best bib and tucker and join the Avatar Repertory Theater as we present a seven course meal of full productions of the seven winning plays from the Virtual Short Play Buffet.” They were not kidding!  If you love theater, good stories, good writing, and excellent performances – this is a must see.  Do not wait.  Do not delay.  Put the reminder in your pda, your Outlook, whatever will beep annoyingly at you and remind you to “GO!  GO NOW!”  There are four more performances left over the next two weekends.  Plan ahead, get your seat early.  Expect there to be capacity crowds because this is excellent theatre in any universe, and the word is bound to spread fast.

The finalist plays were selected from over one hundred initial entries last winter, of which 30 were presented in reading form between March and May.  Audience and company joined together to vote on the final seven selected for full productions, which are currently in performance.  I have seen more short play festivals than you can shake the proverbial stick at, and they are ALWAYS riddled with cliché pretenses masquerading as thoughtful examinations of life.  Not this time.  There was not a single one.  Not a moment where I groaned “Oh yeah, seen this before.” Any twists that might have seemed familiar were short lived as these seven excellent plays all receive full attention and production from the talented A.R.T. company.

Rowan Shamroy and Sam Brautigan in Love in a Virtual World
Playwright Mark Lindberg’s Love in a Virtual World explores the fine line between what we believe and what is real in ourselves, and in our relationships with others.  A deftly abstracted “techno-set” lends clarity to the struggle of two souls as they push apart and pull together, acted with precision and pathos by Rowan Shamroy and Sam Brautigan, and directed by Darius Debruyere.

In Back Burner by J. H. Brown, the playwright accesses his vast experience as a writer of daytime dramas to draw parallels between real life perceptions of status, and the waxing and waning of characters in a daytime television's soap operas.  MadameThespian Underhill and Darius Debruyere bring both sympathy and bluster to the characters of “Sara” and “Tom,” as the later makes his transition from top draw to back burner. Kayden O’Connell directs the duo missing few, if any, notes on this arc.

Arthur M. Jolly’s Zombified directed by Em Jannings finds mogul Kayden O’Connell in the throes of an innovative scheme to sift the chaff from his corporate wheat field and, rather than cast it aside, convert it into the perfect workforce.  The humor is as ironic as it is fast paced.  

Caliban Jigsaw and AvaJean Westland in Drenched
Spokane playwright Sandra Hosking takes a turn at grief with her play Drenched.   Directed by Joff Fassnacht, actors Ava Jean Westland and Caliban Jigsaw turn a rainy park and umbrellas into a journey of acceptance that includes stops at denial, isolation, anger, and bargaining on route to an unexpected denouement filled with delight and wonder.

Monsters by Elford Alley, once more directed by Em Jannings, shows the conflict of a little girl, played with luminous simplicity by Elegia Underwood, torn between two parents in a home environment that is toxic with mistrust.  The “Lizard Man” who emerges from under her bed when the lights go out adds a third dimension to this conflict.  As the story progresses you are left questioning who the monster really is.  Lailu Loon and Dolgoruky Umarov play the parents while Joff Fassnacht plays the “Monster” under the bed.

Ada Radius and Kayden O'Connell in NOLA Goodbye
NOLA Goodbye by Jane Pendergrast made me weep openly all over my keyboard.  Was it the keen and heartfelt direction by Prospero Frobozz?  Was it the heartbreaking portrayals of “Carrie” and “Mo” by Ada Radius and Kayden O’Connell?  I could not say.  A friend of mine had to actually get up and walk away from the computer to gather themselves together, they were so moved.  You must see for yourself the simplicity of this farewell between to long-loved people in order to understand its power.

The Gospel According to Bowser by Dan Borengasser brings the buffet to a yummy conclusion as MadamThespian Underhill directs a delightfully funny cast including Corwyn Allen, Caliban Jigsaw, Rowan Shamroy, Lailu Loon, AvaJean Westland, and Joff Fassnacht in a righteous romp through the religious litany as seen through household pets, and pests.  My sides hurt from the short, sharp shock of laughter. 

These performances will continue to be presented live at the theater in the sky on Cookie Island 

Show times are:

Saturday July 16    6pm
Sunday July 17       2pm

Saturday July 23     7pm
Sunday July 24       3pm

All times are SLT.
Visit A.R.T.'s website

Corwyn Allen as "Bowser" with Rowan Shamroy and Cast in The Gospel According to Bowser

~Caledonia Skytower, Reporting
“Any ink is good ink, even if it is virtual.”

PostScript:  Thank you to ALL who contributed responses to the “Stories in Second Life” survey.  The number of responses, and the passionate thoughts expressed were far more than I could have ever imagined.  Therefore, it is taking me longer to bring the article together than expected.  I am working away at it, and expect to publish it very soon. 


  1. NOLA Goodbye absolutely slayed me! Had me weeping. I enjoyed the ALL of the performances!


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