BRIC by BRIC: Experimental Theater Grows in Brooklynby Gary Winter
American Theater Nexus at the BRIC Studio
Louise will be speaking today at a gathering of corporate executives. It seems that the regularly scheduled speaker, Alice ("Alice The Magnet"), has had her arms pulled out of their sockets this very morning. Louise’s speech will turn from self-help aphorisms to a detailed account of her recent drunken encounters with a fella who had promised her a six-pack in exchange for sex. A bargain, at any rate.
Milk dribbles down The Woman’s chin as she listens to an odd array of messages on her answering machine. The woman is Susan Dunlap, mystery writer. Or is she Susan Dunlop, playwright of the same play? As the last drops of milk dribbles over The Woman, a film noir-like play explains, well, less then we already didn’t know.
In The Vote, it seems that a woman’s place is in the home, having babies, so playwright Samuel Hugsby would have had us believe, pre-1920. Never heard of Mr. Hugsby? There may be a good reason for this— he is an invention of the playwright.
"The cash is really all that matters," claims the man with a beard. "The cash is important. Once we have the cash we can give up."
A woman with a bowtie that lights up enters the stage and leaves a card. A woman with coke-bottle glasses enters the stage and leaves a card. A woman hindered by her lizard’s tail enters and leaves a card. The women enter and re-enter, wearing a variety of hats, light bulbs, tails and roller blades, before breaking into a song.
These are snapshots from an eclectic array of experimental plays— language-driven plays that invent their own rules of the game with intelligence and humor. The short pieces by Erin Courtney (Alice The Magnet); S. Melinda Dunlap (The Woman She Declined to Become); Kate Ryan (The Vote: A Science Fiction Tale and Advertising Lesson); and Mac Wellman (Mister Original Bugg) were presented at the BRIC Studio as part of an evening of experimental theatre by established (Mac Wellman) and emerging (the rest of them) playwrights, and was curated by Luke Leonard.
"I feel strongly about a new theater community forming, " says Leonard. "Now is the time when emerging theater artists are discovering each other, as well as their audiences. The series was intended to reflect the link between American artists we know well, and those we’re getting to know better. I’m very excited about being a part of what’s going on right now. We need more venues (like BRIC) to produce great new artists and great new works."
American Theater Nexus at BRIC (Brooklyn Information and Culture), now in its second year, is right around the corner from BAM’S Harvey Theater in Fort Greene. The BRIC Studio’s rather large (64’ by 74") area and cabaret-style seating (drinks are served) make for a relaxed atmosphere, friendly to experimentation. On the third Thursday of each month, a series called "American Theater Nexus" features works-in-progress and short plays, with styles ranging from conventional to experimental theater.
The spring series will be curated by playwright S. Melinda Dunlap. "I like theater that has no choice but to be theater," Dunlap says, " I want to see work that cannot fit on a television screen or at an AMC movie house. I want to see plays that must be plays because the writer had no other choice, except to say what she needed to say through the medium of a stage and live audience."
BRIC also offers an eclectic array of performance and music on other Thursday nights. On the first Thursday, called "Possible Fireworks," curated by Janine Nichols, a jazz musician is invited to assemble a "dream band" of musicians they haven’t played with before. Some musicians have included Billy Bang, Marty Ehrlich, Brandon Ross, and Roy Nathanson.
Michelle Moskowitz, who is BRIC’s Program Manager and Producer, curates a series called "Sink or Swim" (S.OS.) on the 2nd Thursday of each month. "As a curator for S.OS. I aim to put multidisciplinary work together in new ways," says Moskowitz. "The reason I call it Sink or Swim is because of the fact that it is often a new work and also because I feel that I am taking a risk by putting different aesthetics and forms together in the same evening. And the water theme enables me to provide free goldfish crackers at every event." Performances range from trapeze and aerial artists to local hip-hop groups, dance, puppetry, theater, spoken word and music.
In the past few years it’s no secret that the dearth of space in Manhattan has spurred the opening of alternative spaces in the outer boroughs. Fort Greene— an ethnically mixed area with a diverse population of blue and white collar workers, artists and students— is quickly establishing itself as a cultural capital with the highly budgeted BAM Cultural District. To this, BRIC offers an essential alternative, providing a vital and affordable venue where new performers and writers can emerge and thrive.
For information, reservations and an upcoming performance schedule:
BRIC Studio 57 Rockwell Place, 2nd Floor.
718-855-7882 ×53 www.brooklynx.org
GARY WINTER is a member of (soon to implode) 13P.