Posts Tagged ‘Clyde Simon’

Holiday Giving — Do Your Part

December 2nd, 2016 No comments

We’ve entered the giving season, so I thought I’d write about one organization, other than Playwrights Local that is, to which I’m giving my money.

I’m writing about a black box theater in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. A theater company that changed my theatrical life, and radically altered my perception of how intimate, how powerful, how threatening, and how exhilarating theater can be.

petrol23I was introduced to convergence-continuum in 2007, when Mike Geither took me to see Chris Johnston’s play Spawn of the Petrolsexuals. The experience was fundamentally altering. Chris wrote a play about a dystopian, bombed-out landscape in which homeless superheroes fought brutal, oil-hungry Commandoids that I can only compare to the Enclave, for those of you familiar with Fallout. There was Angerboy, and Freegrrl, Ingen and Holyman. It reminds me, now looking back, of an early Eric Overmyer play, like Native Speech. The set the convergence created was a character in the play: fabricated steel structures, junk scattered, a broken television set, the massive east wall that was used as movie screen, a motorcycle, a garage door that really opened on Scranton Road, garbage cans, and the trap door near the west wall that leads to the cellar.

Lucy Bredeson-Smith, playing Darkangel—-a sort of black sorceress –- opens the trap door leading down to her underground lair and, as soon as she opens the door: the image of Darkangel looking down is on the movie screen east wall. I watch her descend away from me in the theater. I watch her descend toward me on the screen.

It was too meta. I was IN a B-movie and IN a real theater experience all at the same time. My head swelled to explode. The production was well-executed, but the feeling was raw. I went back two more times to see Chris’ play because I’d never seen anything like it. And this is what I hear whenever I take someone to convergence who has never been to convergence. The person who accompanies me is blown away, overwhelmed with a theater experience that they’ve didn’t know was possible: to be that close, to be that much a part of the experience, to feel so intensely.

Convergence is a true ensemble company. It’s made up of passionate, wholly committed actors, directors, light designers, sound designers, playwrights, video designers, costumers, set designers, painters, box office managers, and musicians—all volunteers: virtually impossible to believe in many ways. And they are all successful!! Critically acclaimed productions! Awards for acting, design, productions! And all working for the production itself, and not some small rapacious little thing like money or notoriety or any self-proclaimed “groundbreaking” aesthetic.

So, besides this… why give? convergence-continuum, the theater company, doesn’t own The Liminis, the theater space, in which they create their magic worlds! The Liminis space itself, that was so unique to the production I described above—-the garage door, the trap door, the movie screen wall—-all of the three-dimensional feast of experiences possible in a location—-is at risk.

What if theatre weren’t a mirror reflecting the familiar, but an opening into unknown territory? What if there were no fourth wall? What if, instead of going to the theatre to watch a play, you crossed the threshold into the world of the play to experience it? Theatre that expands the imagination and extends the conventional boundaries of language, structure, space, and performance that challenges the conventional notions of what theatre is. What sort of theatre would this be?


I’m giving to convergence right now. Please give to them as well.

NEOMFA Play Festival

February 14th, 2012 No comments

Went to the NEOMFA festival on February 4 and February 9 at convergence and had a blast.  First of all, there were so many faces there that I recognized that it literally was like walking into a holiday celebration at a family house.

Mike Williams’ piece Plant Life was up first.  While it felt a bit unfinished, it was a yearning piece that sought and looked forward with hope to the possibility that the future might bring.  Alan’s (Tom Kondilas) wife Leslie (Liz Conway) has liver disease and needs a new liver.  The waiting list game isn’t working for the pair and they opt in to the possibilities for a new liver presented by a research scientist (Michael Regnier) whose work with plants has yielded intriguing possibilities.  Combined with this, the deterioration of Alan and Leslie’s relationship begins against the disease and the financial stress on the pair (he is a poor artist, she is the bread-winner).  There were two real highlights, I felt. The first was the rapid succession of wake-up-we-have-to-go moments when the phone rang announcing a possible liver donor had been found.  The succession demonstrated the frustration, terror, and effort that is involved in dealing with transplantation and accomplished the task of moving the play forward both in time and in plot.  The second was the work of convergence in using their trap to allow the birth of the plant Leslie from the pod. Having planted and tended the seed given him by the mad scientist, Alan receives the fruits of his labors in the form of a “new” Leslie who holds within her the liver that the real Leslie needs.  While at first an innocuous plant, at the end it is a massive pod that breaks open revealing: Leslie.  The effect was incredible and the audience rejoiced in seeing it—showing again that to a certain extent spectacle is what drives entertainment in a theater.

Jarod Witkowski’s play Nothing Funny was quite different from Williams’ piece, which was primarily plot-driven. Witkowski’s play’s concern is innocuous enough, a son (Benjamin Gregg) and his relationship (or lack thereof) with his parents played by both Amy Bistok Bunce and Wes Shofner—whom it was great to see at convergence again.  The play begins with the mother shoving dinner to her son saying, “I never liked you much as a kid.”  From there the play explodes in an onslaught of strange and rambling monologues, songs, dislocated scene sequences, jumps in time and space, odd interludes, and startling uses of the space that create a highly expressionistic and subjective emotional dissection of a family’s dysfunctional life together.  A television and colorful old pump assembly (put together by Wes) allowed for movement through time at the push of a…handle.  So the play jumps between the present, the future, the past, funny interlude, monologue, etc.  By focusing on these three people and their relationship with one another, Witkowski does a highly effective job of excavating the emotional life of the family: the resentments, disappointments, yearning for connection, and inability to connect or even express themselves—comically highlighted by the constant refrain of both parents: “grammatical error” as their son speaks.  That is, it’s not enough to strive sincerely to express yourself clearly to another person, but to have to do it in precisely correct grammar—as that seems to be what the person your talking to is focused on—well, that just makes it all the more difficult.

Both of the plays were challenging and fun to see and convergence really came together to put on a wonderful set of shows for the NEOMFA playwrights.

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