Monday, December 03, 2007

Backseat Theatre

Although MVB's main focus is Miami and the Beaches, some things demand posting no matter how far they stray from our narrow focus. In this case, we find ourselves getting excited about a new series of plays in Los Angeles. All of them take place in cars with the audience in the backseat. Cool. Real cool.

This is how Gary Garrison, editor of The Loop newsletter for playwrights, sums up his take on the experience:

"When the going got rough for a group of artists, the artists got to thinking instead of bemoaning their poor existence. When Moving Arts couldn’t find an appropriate performance venue to offer their playwrights an outlet for bringing their work to a public audience, Artistic Producer Paul Stein didn’t fold up and go home. He thought about his world, his writers, his day-to-day life and tried to make sense of it all. From that was born The Car Plays. This is from their p.r.:

The Car Plays examines what transpires in vehicles and gives theatre patrons a voyeuristic view inside many of these moments and lives. In Los Angeles, we constantly break up in cars, make up in cars, live, die and laugh in cars. Fifteen 10-minute pieces, all commissioned by Moving Arts, will be presented in cars. Carhops will escort audience to the parked vehicles.

I was so psyched to see this, I can’t tell you. We showed up to the theatre (The Steve Allen Theatre) and saw three rows of five parked cars – end to end – roped off. All kinds of cars: SUVs, economy cars, station wagons and luxury cars – the whole automotive canvas. At curtain time, our car hop brought us to our row of cars. We were instructed to not open or close the doors of the car – they’d do that to signify the beginning or end of the play. Then, on cue, we were ushered to our first car, invited to the front or back passenger seat and . . . waited.
In my first car, two guys hurriedly ran for the car, dove into the front seat, slammed their doors and begin talking about a "deal," some job they had to do. In short order, you realized you were witnessing the conversation between two men about to take someone out – for good. One guy was nervous; the other confident. One guy was an American; the other a foreigner. There was lots of tension in the car, and I COULDN’T ESCAPE IT. Fuckin’ brilliant.
Next car: a middle-aged woman (front seat) argues with her mother (back seat, next to me) about their troubled relationship. What you think is fairly standard fare turns quickly into a look into cavernous loneliness, complex family relationships, death and depression.
Next car: A woman has picked up a hooker for her first lesbian affair – only to discover (in the car) she’s a he. And this guy was hot as a young woman. This guy made me want to jump to the other side with his short, plaid skirt, blonde wig, expert diva make-up, perfume, nails done to perfection. And I am literally inches from them as they sort through their very complicated feelings of attraction. I get to see the questions in their faces, watch their pupils dilate with surprise and passion and then watch them deaden with rejection.
I could go on. Really. Because it was just all so brilliant in concept. Okay, so you can argue about the writing of any one story or a performance here and there. But you’re in the car, it’s happening right in front of you, it all makes perfect dramatic sense, the characters are fascinating, the stories are interesting and it’s THEATRE on a dime, baby. It’s "fuck you, we’re going do it because we’ve got some thing to say and just because we don’t have a theatre is no reason not to say it and not be heard."
Right on. Bravo.
Here’s the best part: you can’t get a ticket! They sell out weeks before they perform. It’s a huge, huge critical success. And Moving Arts is thinking of ways of expanding the program to accommodate more audience, more stories. Can you imagine? When’s the last time you heard that happening?
We can't remember when. It's always a struggle for small theatres. Even more so here. Perhaps one of our favorites such as the Mad Cat Theatre company might want to give it a go. To cut costs even further, have the theatregoer provide the stage, i.e., the play takes place in their car in the theatre company's parking lot. Or guerrilla style at a place to be determined (you'd find out once you bought your ticket online).

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