The apocalypse, foreshadowed at Pink Banana
The independent company's annual One-Act Festival features seven plays led by six directors, all focusing on "The End of the World." Opens tonight.
In the years since Pink Banana Theatre first appeared on the Milwaukee theater scene, a lot has changed for the independent company – most recently, a transition from a transience to a permanent home in Grand Avenue Mall. But one thing’s stayed constant: the annual One-Act Festival, offering local and national playwrights an opportunity to have their works staged by Pink Banana and friends.
This year, the theme is The End of the World. Pink Banana will stage seven different takes on the apocalypse or apocalyptic events at Next Act Theatre, starting Friday, June 1, and running through June 9. The one-acts tackle every subject from game shows to grocery stores to primordial ooze. We’ve talked to the directors behind six of the seven plays for a bit of insight.
Play: Clean Up On Aisle Six, by Clayton Hamburg
Summary: What if the last person on earth you’d ever want to spend time with turns out to be the last person on earth you spend time with? The end is in sight and may not look too different from the checkout line at your very own grocery store.
Fingard on Why This Play: I appreciate the very realistic hypocrisy found in everyday life that is represented in this script. In Clean Up in Aisle Six, the grocery store employees are complaining about world events and then their actions contribute to the events they are complaining about. For example, a clerk complains about Enron’s poor business practices and in the very next moment he steals a pack of gum. Another employee is talking about how sad it is that people don’t connect anymore while she is checking her phone.
On the Rehearsal Process: Finding the hypocrisy and the comedy throughout the piece has been an enjoyable experience.The cast and I have been having a lot of fun working together to create this piece and it’s been exciting knowing there are many other directors, actors and technicians working just as hard pulling their piece together.
Play: The Good New Days, by Willy Thorn (co-directed with Dana Gustafson)
Summary: Two eskimos have survived the apocalypse, to discover that their lives aren’t really any different than they were before the end of the world.
On the Rehearsal Process: Originally, the play is just two Eskimos having a talk after the apocalypse. We’ve readjusted it to be a father and daughter, and they’re survivalists in training. So this is not actually the end of the world – instead of post-end-of-the-world, it’s pre-(end-of-the-world), so that’s a weird direction we’ve taken, to give a different perspective.
Play: Name That Apocalypse, by Sammi Dittloff (also co-directing The Good New Days)
Summary: In Name that Apocalypse, three game show contestants compete for the chance to survive the impending end of the world. It’s set at a point in the future where signs of the coming apocalypse are rampant. As everyone panics, companies are desperately try to sell products to help you survive.
Gustafson on Why This Play: I was laughing out loud when I read it. The plays that we were considering ran the gamut from heavy drama to broad comedy, and I wanted the challenge of working on an ensemble comedy with some over-the-top characters.
On the Rehearsal Process: I was pleasantly suprised at how quickly the actors embraced these characters – everyone came to rehearsals full of ideas they wanted to try, and they really put their own stamps on their roles.
Plays: Things That Go Bump, by Mike Thompson | The Latest News from the Primordial Ooze, by Rich Orloff
Summaries: In Things that Go Bump, a young girl named Lucy has had a rough day. It doesn’t help when an errant boogeyman leaps out of her closet looking for a kid down the street. But Lucy’s one of the good kids, so Marty – a sort of Boogey-assistant – comes to check on her and make sure she’s ok.
In The Latest News, Barry and Marjorie are a couple of amphibious creatures. He’s eager to start exploring the land; she’s content at home in the water. Orloff funny and poignant script explores how seizing your dreams sometimes means giving up the world that you know – and sometimes the ones you love.
Piotrowicz on Why These Plays: Things that Go Bump was sent to me a long time ago by my friend Mike Thompson. When I first read it, it reminded me of the popular movie Monsters, Inc. I loved that it deals with multiple metaphysical realms that somehow all interrelate – boogeymen, Santa, heaven, etc. It’s interesting to mix all of these “beliefs” into one universe and find that what we really want from any of them is comfort and connection.
Ooze was a no-brainer. Rich Orloff is a comic genius and is consistently well-liked by Milwaukee crowds. I’ve had the pleasure of working on several Orloff projects in the past (including Come Light the Menorah at the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center, Big Boys at Next Act Theatre, and Veronica’s Position at In Tandem Theatre) and each time I have found myself still laughing at the jokes weeks into the rehearsal process.
On the Rehearsal Process: For Bump, I’ve had the privilege of working with the talented Liz Faraglia as Lucy. It’s not always easy for mature performers to find the childlike qualities for much younger roles, and I was nervous at first about casting a college-aged actress in the part, but after seeing Liz in Mr. Marmalade at UWM (directed by Angela Fingard), I knew that we had the perfect person. Tim Palacek and I didn’t know going in that his portrayal of the Boogeyman when not scaring kids would be so incredibly different than his “scare” persona. While the genesis of this is in the script, the resulting character (I can’t give too much away) is a lot of Tim’s work.
The greatest challenge on Ooze was figuring out the physicality of these creatures. Allie Beckman and Harry Loeffler-Bell have been incredibly game. The play was originally penned for performance in a swimming pool, so the staging of it on dry land meant giving a certain flowing frenetic quality to the characters. I think what surprised us most was after weeks of rehearsal honing the comic timing, we took a break for a couple of weeks, and upon returning to the rehearsal hall, we found a new sense of connection between the characters that made them more real to us.
Play: So Jesus Christ Walks Into a Bar…, by Andrew Rosdale
Summary: The dark side of those bar jokes: What would actually happen as Jesus comes in and deals with the bartender and barflies — during the apocalypse?
Franz on Why This Play: I really enjoyed the relationship between the characters, and the reflective nature of people even as the world crashes down around them.
On the Rehearsal Process: It’s been a trip. I think the most fun has been from finding ways to make Jesus accessible and still on a higher level than anyone else.
The Pink Banana One-Act Festival runs June 1 to June 9, with all shows at 7:30 p.m. All seven one-acts, including Arthur M. Jolly’s Bailing Out, directed by Luke Erickson, will be performed at each show. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door; visit Pink Banana’s website to order.