Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Audience Participation

Since our production of "Bombs, Babes, and Bingo" was an workshop production, we invited audience feedback through a talkback with the playwright, Merri Biechler on opening night. Following opening night, we included a feedback form in ever program, which most people filled out. One very generous and lovely response was sent to my email through the website. This person was thorough and insightful, we gained permission to post the critique on our blog. We thought it'd be neat to share the audience's perspective with you!

This is an excerpt from the email!

This play is a metaphorical, and sometimes allegorical, look at modern America's bifurcated efforts at peace and war. The play consists of several scenes; for each performance the order of the scenes is randomly selected by a Bingo system so that each performance is unique; the only constants are the first and last scenes. The program notes and website blogs indicated that this piece intends to look at how memory is affected by experiences, and in particular, the sequencing of those experiences. The blog notes relate a Ferris wheel story that superbly demonstrates how different sequences of the same events color a viewer's perception of the underlying motives of the characters. However, in BB&B, there are chronological cues in almost every scene that allow the viewer to linearize* the storyline despite the random presentation of scenes. In this respect, this production is more like a standard "flashback" work than an experiment in atemporalization*.

The plot:: Dennis, a scientist/bomb maker for the government, is brain-injured in a blast in Pakistan. His daughter, Hannah, wants to follow in his footsteps and become a bomb maker. Dennis tries to recover from his injury by subtracting extraneous information from his newly limited brain; his wife, Ellen, originally happy to be shallow, finds she needs more from life and leaves Dennis to enroll in Clown College; Hannah decides that bomb making is immoral and goes to Pakistan to help those who were "collateral damage" from U.S. bombs. Throughout the production Dark Girl appears, dressed in combat fatigues, variously as conscience, moderator and Bingo caller.

Overall, this was a good production and a great start for an innovative, cutting edge theater. The use of projection and sound was excellent. The set perfectly suited the performance. All four actors performed superbly. Christy Hall (Dark Girl), despite having fewer lines than the others, had a role requiring the greatest flexibility in character presentation—seamlessly integrating movement, voice and action through different characters. Asa Tims (Dennis) had the most lines, but his character was relatively static throughout the piece, revealing little self-insight at the end. Erika Wilhite (Ellen) did a good job of portraying the transition of a wife who initially worshipped "shallow" to one who ultimately needed to develop into something more (perhaps a metaphor for the social development of the U.S. from the '50s to now). Darcy Ames Harris (Hannah) was exemplary, shifting from 10 year old to adult, in the process recognizing the shortcomings of both her parents, and attempting to atone for the sins of both. The denouement was plausible, not unexpected, and well very well staged.

Eureka Springs, AR

From Process to Production to Process by Erika Wilhite

After spending the summer labbing and living in the process of "Bombs, Babes and Bingo," we moved into a pretty intense and compressed rehearsal period. We only had two weeks to stage the play. Considering the time constraint, I am very proud of our production. In retrospect, I recognize the need for more time with the playwright and director. Which is why we want to do it all over again! Merri Biechler, playwright of "Bombs," received some great feedback about the play from the audiences and is working on rewrites now! We will keep you posted on our next step! We are already making plans for the next lab this Fall.

For now, here are some photographs from a dress rehearsal, courtesy of Ellen Gregory.

"Bombs, Babes and Bingo" by Merri Biechler
Produced by The Artist's Laboratory Theatre
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Scenic Design by Alan Edward Schwanke