365 Days/365 Plays

November 7, 2007

The Public Theater’s year-long presentation of Suzan-Lori Parks’s mammoth 365 Days/365 Plays project comes to a close this week, and today I’d like weigh in with some highly subjective thoughts about it culled from my own experience as a performer in this undertaking.

My Blood Brothers castmates Gyda Arber, Jessi Gotta, and Anna Kull joined me onstage at The Public Theater on Sunday, October 14th as part of the contingent representing The Brick Theater, which included many of their regulars: Robert Honeywell, Moira Stone, Jeff Lewonczyk, Hope Cartelli, Devon Hawkes Ludlow, Art Wallace, Michael Gardner, and Alyssa Simon, to name but a few. All of us had originally taken part in The Brick’s 365 Plays performance at their Williamsburg space back in September (Week #45 of the 52-week schedule, for those of you keeping score at home), and were fortunate enough to be on board for the one-day-only reprise at The Public.

Can I just tell you all what a blast this was?! The wild air of invention permeated the proceedings as imaginations were unlocked and crazy ideas were unleashed onstage. A flustered young woman aggressively romanced a hula instructor; another young woman sexually accosted her male cross-dressing doppelganger; a frustrated writer tried to gain inspiration from the cookie that inspired Proust; an anonymous group of Halloween-masked revelers danced silently to sitar music; an even larger group of attention-seekers, all wearing crowns, calmly stormed the stage and waved to the crowd. Are you starting to get an idea of what a gonzo undertaking this was? Great fun, all around. It reminded me of the work we did in my college directing class, where caution was thrown to the wind with regular and gleeful abandon, experiments in story, theme, intention, and composition abounded, and everything was permitted.

The 365 Plays were also a blast because it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to perform at The Public Theater. I grew up seeing shows there, and it has always held a special place in my heart. So, the chance to finally act on one of their stages was beyond thrilling for me. My thanks to everyone at The Brick – especially my wonderful director, Alexis Sottile – for this incredible opportunity (and also for making me look like a big shot in front of my mom, who came and checked out my Off-Broadway debut).

I should also mention some of the other fantastic theatre companies that were on the bill with us that day, like LAByrinth Theater Company (who brought their heavy hitters Padraic Lillis, Florencia Lozano, and Andrea Ciannavei with them) and Rising Phoenix Repertory (whose group included company members Julie Kline, Addie Johnson, and Denis Butkus, as well as special guest ringer Keith Reddin). I didn’t get a chance to see either company strut their stuff, but several reports I heard from those who did said that both were typically awesome.

I’d love to hear more about other people’s experience of the 365 Plays, either as a participant or an audience member. What was it like for you? What did you get out of it, if anything? And what did you think of it? For a project this big by a playwright this well-known the media coverage and word-of-mouth was surprisingly low-key. So, leave a comment or shoot me an email with your two cents.