Gaslight Theatre Company’s creativity locked inside the ‘Attic’

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First Posted: 7/8/2014

For the past two years, Gaslight Theatre Company has allowed audiences – as well as their very own playwrights, directors, and actors – to take a look at rooms in a home that seem like familiar territory in all different ways, thanks to the “Playroom” series.

Previously, the bathroom and kitchen were tackled, so this year it’s all about that mysterious, possible catch-all (or finished area of awesome living) that sits atop a home: the attic.

Playwrights for this year include Jennifer Hill, Lukas R. Tomasacci, Matthew S. Hinton, B. Garret Rogan, Rachel Strayer, Lori M. Myers, and Robert Andrew Anderson. We caught up with Wendy Popeck and Brandi George, two ladies who took on the roles of directors for certain one-acts, to see what’s up in the attic.

WEEKENDER: For someone who may be unfamiliar with it, what is “Playroom: Attic” all about?

WENDY POPECK: “Playroom” is Gaslight Theatre Company’s annual one-act play festival, now in its third year. The concept was created by Matthew Hinton, who is currently the Vice President of our Board, and one of our resident playwrights. The idea behind “Playroom” is that we ask local playwrights to write a short one-act, set in a particular room of a house, and produce the plays together. Basically, our local playwrights are sent a very basic set description with some basic parameters in place (the maximum number of characters, ideal length). This year, we held a table reading at Misericordia University once we had working drafts from the playwrights so that they could hear them read aloud, get feedback, and make any edits if they felt necessary. It’s a really collaborative process.

BRANDI GEORGE: We’ve discovered that a lot of the plays touch on memory and nostalgia. They’re almost all very tender and truthful; there really isn’t anything that’s off-limits when it comes to content. I’d say that this year’s “Playroom” is our most dynamic in terms of subject matter. It should make for a very enjoyable evening!

W: What’s the one-act you’re directing about?

WP: I am directing “The Next Step” by Rachel Luann Strayer. The play is about the struggle that many people feel when they pursue an artistic life, in balancing their work with family obligations and commitments. It also deals with the creative process and how you can get stuck in that and feel like you’ve lost your momentum. It has a bit of a morbid tone, and so it is quite well-suited to the setting of an attic. Although that description makes it sound like a drama, it’s really quite funny. I think that anyone who feels pulled in a lot of opposing directions in his or her daily life will relate to this play.

BG: I’m directing Matthew Hinton’s play, “Talk the Night.” Matt has taken “Playroom” to another level each year by centering each plot around the same universe of this one family, so this year we see the third installment. “Talk the Night” follows Drake’s late-night pirate radio station he’s broadcasting from the attic of his house. The excitement in this play comes from the mystical elements that seem to revolve around this family and their house. Drake ponders time and time loss throughout our lives and even draws parallels to his own “time lost to the fridge,” which references his experience in the “Playroom: Kitchen” when, as a young boy, he took a trip through a time portal-powered refrigerator and came out the other side twice his age.

W: What makes the “Playroom” series so special?

WP: I am continually fascinated by the creativity of our playwrights. Each year, they come back with such a wide variety of stories, some of them very sad or dramatic, some hilariously comedic. They write on their own and do not communicate with each other during the writing process. It’s so interesting to me that we end up with such a diverse selection of plays in the end.

BG: I think this little nugget of an idea was a creative way for Gaslight to involve our writer friends and engage the community in short-form theatre. “Playroom” has evolved and has truly been well-received in the previous two years. Gaslight is really feeling the love from the community on this one – especially because we’ve taken the approach to have pop-up spaces as our venues. It’s just such a fun and creative way to get new work out there.