The local creators of the five featured short pieces offer some insight for audiences who will go on the “micro journey” starting October 23
More than four dozen local artists gathered at the Denver Center on Tuesday to officially begin rehearsals for Bite-Size. an evening of five original short plays and performance pieces by Colorado artists and performed off-site at Denver’s BookBar.
Bite-Size, presented by Off-Center, the Denver Center’s most unconventional line of programming, is a 360-degree experience where audience members will journey through a variety of spaces in and around BookBar – a book store and, yes, bar located at 4280 Tennyson St. Each piece will be performed in a different space simultaneously. The evening will accommodate 70 audience members; groups of 10 at a time will see each piece in different orders. During scheduled breaks between performances, audiences will have the ability to purchase wine or tapas and socialize.
Bite-Size will run for 24 performances from October 23 through November 18. The project was conceived by Meridith C. Grundei, who performed in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Frankenstein and was featured as one of Westword’s 2017 100 Colorado Creatives.
The form is called “micro-theatre,” a unique approach to performance that is popular internationally. Grundei said micro theatre originated in Spain and invites flexibility, collaboration and conversation into the room. “And joy,” she added. “I am encouraging everyone to embrace that.”
Bite-Size drew 213 submissions from 101 Colorado ZIP codes. All of the plays had to be somehow inspired by a work of literature. “We were overwhelmed and amazed by the response,” said Off-Center Curator Charlie Miller. “We chose the final five because they were really exciting but also because they tell such different stories and feature so many different kinds of characters. The experience will be very interesting for the audience, I hope, because each piece has its own world and its own vocabulary. And I was particularly excited for the opportunity to showcase the work of local writers.”
As a way of getting more of the submissions heard, the 12 finalists will be featured in post-performance reading series, two each night, immediately following every Friday and Saturday night performance beginning November 2.
Bite-Size: A morsel from each play
- By Jeffrey Neuman
- Directed by Mare Trevathan
- A quick nibble: In this charming, intimate and sly play, a reticent customer at a used bookstore is confronted by the shop’s manager when caught defacing some books.
- A bigger bite from the playwright: Marginalia may, on the surface, be a play depicting a simple confrontation. For me, though, the play is about connection, about the very human need to connect with others and the even more human challenge of not being able to do so. I wrote this play as a love letter to the many people in my life who have taken refuge in books with the hopes of finding a way out of feeling, themselves, marginalized.
- Featuring Regan Linton (Phamaly Theatre Company’s Into the Woods) and Emma Messenger (Curious Theatre Company’s The Cake) alternating the roles of J and M.
J: Well, I was flipping through [the book], because, y’know, why not, and there was this whole chapter on the … “causes” of homosexuality. And, someone’d written in the margins: “My mother made me a lesbian.” Underneath that — someone else had written …“If I buy her the yarn, will she make me one, too?”
A Pocket Full of Dandelions
- By Kristen Adele Calhoun and Theo E.J. Wilson
- Directed by Ashley Hamilton
- A quick nibble: While rebellion thrashes outside, in the library of Denver’s maximum security prison, two women struggle to decide if “liberty and justice” is indeed for all. Along the way, they find an unlikely accomplice in this powerful and poetic drama.
- A bigger bite from Calhoun: A Pocketful of Dandelions was inspired by two books: When they Call You a Terrorist, a memoir about what it means to be a black woman in America, and Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown. When They Call You a Terrorist was written by two of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Asha Bandele and Patrisse Cullors. It also incorporates Patrice’s brother’s journey being imprisoned not only for being a black man, but also having a mental illness. Emergent Strategy looks at how we can study nature to influence our social justice movements. Our play is wild, and I still can’t believe Off-Center selected it.
- Featuring Dezi Bing in her Colorado theatre debut as Major and Kenya Fashaw (writer of 5280 Artist Co-Op’s Henry Award-winning new play Colorism) as Arminta (a.k.a. Minty).
Araminta: A king ain’t nothin’ but a slave with connections. And is only lent his power for his aptitude for service. The constituents within the body politic can sever said connections like blood vessels if the heart becomes perverted … ‘Cause it no longer serves its purpose.
- By Edith Weiss
- Directed by Geoffrey Kent
- A quick nibble: The face of none other than Jesus Christ appears on the couch of a well-to-do suburban couple in this tender and surprisingly relevant comedy.
- A bigger bite from the playwright: My play was inspired by two things I find problematic – Christianity and immigration – and how these two things merge. One should inform the other, but that doesn’t usually happen. And when I say “problematic,” I mean to say that we just can’t seem to get it right. So what would happen when these two good people see this thing on their couch?
- Featuring Diana Dresser (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Judy and Matthew Schneck (Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Love’s Labour’s Lost) as Jim.
Jim: Why wouldn’t Jesus want a beer? He changed water to wine. So you know booze was all right with him.
Judy: Jesus is not a frat boy!
Outside the Room
- Created by Theatre Artibus (Buba Basishvili and Meghan Frank) and Grapefruit Lab (Julie Rada, Kenny Storms and Miriam Suzanne)
- Conceived with writing by Larry Mitchell
- A quick nibble: A family struggles to find humanity and normalcy in a world made uncertain and strange after the transformation and “othering” of one of their own. This physical-theatre piece imagines what happens on the other side of the iconic room in Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
- A bigger bite from Mitchell: I wanted to work with these other artists, and I think they wanted to work with me. So we got together and I created a script that was kind of a map, and it has been a bit of constant bouncing back and forth and sharing of evolving ideas ever since. From a modern context, we are most focused on that dehumanzing thing that happens when we “other” people.
- Featuring Buba Basishvili, Meghan Frank (Theatre Artibus’ Oops) and Julie Rada (Grapefruit Lab’s Jane/Eyre)
Stage direction: Without an urgent task at hand, Sister moves into a dance expressing a longing for freedom and an acceptance that this moment is as close as she might ever get. Perhaps there were moments earlier where she tried to find this moment, but was unable to.
Toxoplasmosis (or) High Strangeness
- By Sean Michael Cummings
- Directed by Meridith C. Grundei
- A quick nibble: After the (perhaps) accidental cremation of a cat and the discovery of a mysterious book, Ali and Hannah are thrust into quantum uncertainty. They’ll have to bridge social, generational and metaphysical chasms if they want to escape this veterinarian’s office intact.
- A bigger bite from the playwright: “This play was written out of the oddness I feel when my mother and I don’t understand each other’s memes. I’m interested in the way that pop-cultural minutiae can alienate people with very similar material circumstances, so I wanted to clown around in this area. Also, I thought it would be cool if they summoned an Astral Bear.
- Featuring Rakeem Lawrence (Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ A Raisin in the Sun) as Ali, Bernadette Sefic (Curious New Voices) as Hanna and K. Woodzick (Founder of the Non-Binary Monologues Project) as Veterinary Assistant.
Hannah: Mom, maybe there’s no blame. Maybe there’s just autism, and, and incompetent medicine, and death, and maybe it’s time we stopped trying to paper over that fact with science-fiction internet [bleep]! OK? And I’m hanging up now because you’re making me swear in public!
Bite-Size: An Evening of Micro Theatre: Ticket information
- Created and Directed by Meridith C. Grundei
- Dramaturgy by Heidi Schmidt
- Oct. 23-November 18
- At BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St.
- Additional post-show readings of two featured finalists after all Friday and Saturday performances starting November 2
- Tickets: Call 303-893-4100, BUY ONLINE or in person in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at 14th and Curtis streets