Fundraiser to help theater group take show on the road
By Richard Davis
TFW Staff Writer
Artist’s Laboratory Theatre took on a challenge for its inaugural production back in August.
After six weeks of experimentation, followed by about two weeks of rehearsal and set design, the Lab opened with “Bombs, Babes & Bingo” in a small venue behind Foghorn’s on College Avenue. The play — about an explosives scientist suffering from dementia — was calculated as a disjointed, jarring experience with scenes being performed at random, their order chosen by the drawing of Bingo balls.
“The chaos is going to be part of the energy of the show, and I’m counting on it being kind of a good thing instead of a bad thing,” Erika Wilhite, Lab artistic director, said of the production in August.
The unusual performance paid off, though, with the theater group being invited to perform “Bombs” at the New Orleans Fringe Festival, which takes place Nov. 17-21. Now the Lab just has to find a way to pay for the privilege.
Enter the fundraiser: “The Sheet Fort Experience” at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, in the studio of artist Matt Miller, 21 W. Mountain in Fayetteville. The event will include a staged reading of Charles Mee’s “Time to Burn,” which may in turn become a project for the Lab next year. The reading of “Burn” will take place inside a giant sheet fort designed by local artist Mike Davis.
As with most fundraisers, the event will also include the requisite cash bar and silent action. Tickets are $20 and can be reserved at www.artlabtheatre.com.
Later, the Lab hopes to make this just the first in a series of readings staged inside intimate settings.
From their news release: “ALT is interested in creating a dialogue with their audiences about the plays under consideration in hopes that their choices of productions are meaningful and relevant to their community. They are also committed to bringing their work closer to their audience and suspect the sheet fort accomplishes that.”
The Lab takes an unusual approach to theater with the bulk of its time spent in experimentation phrase — three times as long, in fact, in experimenting with “Bombs, Babes & Bingo” as in preparing for an actual staging.
“We take a lot of time before we approach a script,” Wilhite said of the Lab’s process. “With the themes, the characters, the nuances, all the little things that make up the story, we take them, we deconstruct them, we turn them inside out and make sure that we really understand the thing and then we do the show.”
Interested parties can even follow the Lab through their experiments and permutations at theartistslaboratorytheatre.blogspot.com. Some of the material is even broken down enough that ambitious followers could take the template and do their own experimentation.
Taking the show on the road to New Orleans, the fundraiser and exploring the prospect of staging “Time to Burn” are all part of the growth process planned by the Lab.
“What my goal is as artistic director is to become a thing that is funded, that is in the community and is serving the community and being with the community besides just performing,” Wilhite said.