Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pink Banana's Next Big Thing

By Russ Bickerstaff
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In spite of my best efforts, I will NOT be making the open auditions tonight. For the third time, I have had my work as a script writer accepted for a local DIY program—Pink Banana’s upcoming show entitled: Shorts: The Next Big Thing. This time, they have elected to use two of my scripts for the show.

As all my previous experiences with DIY required much more of my personal time, my involvement with The Next Big Thing has been quite a bit less involved than it has in past productions. Things seem to have gotten quite busy.

MOBILE:

Matt Richardson and I had been bouncing voicemail and email off each other for days when we finally had a chance to talk voice to voice. Barack Obama had just won the Wisconsin primary and I was talking to someone about Mobile—a short script that I’d written ages ago. I’d known Richardson from his work with Alamo Basement and Insurgent Theatre. A bit addled by exhaustion, I was relieved to discover that Matt thought the script was even coherent. To my surprise, I was able to talk articulately about the finer points of the plot when asked for an overall idea of what Mobile was about. As it turns out, we had very similar views on the script. When asked about casting, Richardson told me that he had a few people in mind. “DIY veterans,” he says. Cool.

The idea was a bit of a mish mash of observations on the nature of bureaucracy and office politics. I’d always wanted to write a piece for the stage featuring two people breaking off from their conversation to talk to other people on cell phones. (I'm not sure why.) Here we have two scenes from either end of a corporation happening simultaneously. Richardson outlined a really interesting way to execute the script that sounds like it would be a challenge for a professional theatre company. It’ll be interesting to see how it comes together when The Next Big Thing opens.

PHARMACONFESSIONAL:


It was late afternoon. I had just returned to the apartment. It was an awkward conversation. I knew little to nothing about Jessica Betts other than the fact that her telephone number has an area code west of Milwaukee. Jessica and I fumbled through a few minutes on the phone before realizing that we really had no need to discuss things. Pharmaconfessional is one of the most straightforward pieces of fiction I’ve ever written. Jessica knew how simple the script was, which is probably why she hadn’t thought to contact me.

Jessica confirmed that doubling would be absolutely essential. While the story is fairly straightforward, the cast complicates things. It's huge: some ten distinct characters, four of whom have to be present onstage at the same time near the end of the short. This is a large, unwieldy cast for a play of this length. The premise is simple: the Catholic church and the pharmaceutical industry have become fused. Priest and pharmacist are one in the same. Catholics go into pharmaconfessional booths, confess their sins and hand over their prescriptions to receive both physical and spiritual absolution. There are seven sinners. There is one Pharmapriest. There are two police officers. Visualize a cross between a caduceus and a crucifix and you’ve got the right idea. Jessica told me she used to work in a pharmacy. Cool. I wonder how that's going to inform on the production.

Open Auditions for Pink Banana’s Next Big Thing are 5-9 pm March 2nd at the Alchemist Theatre on south Kinnickinnic.
The show runs May 8 – 24 at the Alchemist.

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