Wassup In May at Plan-B

Posted April 29, 2008 in
I enjoy putting up posters for Plan-B, mostly because I get to see reactions to the show in question. This is particularly true of SLAM. When people ask about it, and you describe how five playwrights come up with a ten-minute play overnight, then the actors and directors have the day to rehearse and the pieces go up that evening, they get this certain expression on their face. It’s something along the lines of “Is your theatre company completely insane?” But what they say out loud, almost every time, is “Whoa! I need to go to that!” It definitely needs to be seen to be believed. Saturday, May 17 will be a day of pure adrenalin for all involved. The playwrights are assigned a random play title and cast and have to write for five actors rather than the previous year’s three. Last year was my first SLAM and for about ten minutes before I went on, I was totally convinced there was no way I could pull it off. This is the fifth anniversary and SLAM is moving from the 240-seat Black Box to the 500-seat Jeanne Wagner at the Rose Wagner. I feel quite sick at the prospect and I think that’s the same for all the actors. The youngest member of the cast this year is Sarah Young who just turned 19, and was an intern for SLAM last year. Then there are four sadistic people, including actor Stephanie Howell, who have been part of every SLAM since the beginning. Stephanie says: “You feel a little like someone is playing with your mind. You look up at the clock and suddenly two hours have gone by, and you realize that a huge chunk of your rehearsal time just flew past. It's going to be an exciting year. Moving SLAM into the Jeanne will throw a whole new set of variables into the mix. I think it's going to be a huge challenge. Both the size of the stage and having five actors per piece will complicate things on so many levels.” There will also be the added bonus of beer being sold this year.

Plan-B is celebrating SLAM turning five in another big way––it’s official book release party. As crazy as it sounds, Plan B the first theatre company in Utah history to publish an anthology of our original, full-length plays. The collection, called Plan-B Theatre Company: Plays From Behind The Zion Curtain, contains eight plays that have had world premieres at Plan-B since 2005. Producing Director Jerry Rapier says the publication is a dream come true for the company: “I can't believe Mark Taylor at Juniper Press didn't think I was a complete freak when I approached him about publishing our book. I expected him to say, ‘What the hell are you thinking?’ Instead, he said it would be exciting for him as well.”

One actor that won’t be part of SLAM this year is David Spencer because he’ll be deep into rehearsals for Plan-B’s next show, The Tricky Part by Martin Moran. The play, in the Studio Theatre at the Rose from May 30 to June 15, is one of the most heralded one-man plays in recent history. The author, who is a Broadway actor and writer, had a sexual relationship with an older man when he was 12-15 years old. More than 30 years later he has transformed his story into a riveting, often funny journey through the complexities of Catholicism, desire and human trespass.

The Tricky Part was one of eight work-shopped plays at the Sundance Theatre Labs in summer 2003. Jann Haworth, a Utah artist who included Moran in her SLC Pepper mural, saw one of the first public performances of the play. She says: “Marty decided to do a reading of the work in progress in the Wasatch Room at Sundance. There were about ten of us. We hadn't been briefed about the play other than it was a one-person show. There was no stage lighting, we were on random chairs and Marty was at a podium with the script––his director Seth in the audience with a note pad. It was in the afternoon. He began and increasingly the narrative held you- the piece moved you from the gentle story flow to that disembodied feeling that on rare theatre performances pushes you into a sort of trance––where your body seems to disappear––your mind floats held by the intensity of what you are witnessing and the room blacks out. The performer is the only reality: the world is gone. It was one of those moments. It was only him and his experience.

Cort Brinkerhoff, a Utah writer (who is writing for SLAM this year) was assisting at the workshops, and watched later presentations in the Sundance Screening Room. He says: “He led the audience on a journey through his loss of innocence and coming of age. We could all see how connected he was to the events in the play. The collective audience laughed and cried with Marty. As the play ended, everyone sat in silence. It took at least a full minute before people were ready to applaud.”

Local actor and teacher Kevin Doyle (who is acting for SLAM this year) also assisted with the workshops. He remembers asking Moran about the play’s future: “I asked Martin what he would advise someone who might play the part down the road, after it was published. He just looked at me and didn't have an answer. I said, 'You know this is going to be produced and other people will be playing you. How do you feel about that?' He said he'd never thought about it. I'm guessing later he would certainly consider it and has talked about it since then.”

Actor David Spencer, who performed the one-man show I Am My Own Wife at Salt Lake Acting Company, says he is ready to take on the challenge: “I have to admit that it's rather daunting because of the personal nature of this story and because Marty's personality is so infused into this text. I want to be true to that but at the end of the day, I'm not Marty; I'm an actor who is going to be playing a character called Marty. And in that distinction is the permission I can give myself to throw myself into it and tell Marty's story. The story is timeless and universal that is, the lessons of forgiveness and taking control of your life are lessons that serve all of us. As far as finding myself out in front of a group of people for an hour and a half, I see myself as a storyteller sharing a very interesting and compelling story, which makes it a rather enjoyable task, I'd say.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008 at 8pm
Jeanne Wagner Theatre at the Rose Wagner 138 West 300 South
Tickets $18 (reserved seating)
355-ARTS or http://planbtheatre.org/slam

May 30-June 15, 2008
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner
138 West 300 South
Tickets $18 (general seating)
355-ARTS or http://planbtheatre.org/thetrickypart

- Post-show discussion on Sunday, June 1 at 3:30pm. Free and open to the public!

- In partnership with The Village and Salt Lake Film Society, a screening of the film THE BOYS OF ST. VINCENT will be held on Monday, June 2 at 7pm at the historic Tower Theatre. Free and open to the public!