The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Tag: Off Leash Area

How to Host a Play in Your Garage

This weekend, Jay and I had the wonderful experience of hosting a play in our garage.  If you have the chance to be a host, I would highly recommend it.  I don’t know how many options there really are out there, but if you live in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, you are lucky enough to be close to a theatre company that has just started doing a “garage tour” this year.

It just so happens to be my absolutely favorite group, “Off Leash Area,” whose website you can check out at  If you have read my blog before, you may have read my review of “Ivan the Drunk and his Terrible Tale of Woe” a few years ago.  Same people.

The show that they are performing for this year’s garage tour is “A Gift for Planet BX63,” which they developed a few years ago with playwright Max Sparber, who also wrote Ivan.  It’s a cool show.  It’s just under an hour, there are three actors who present a story which makes you think about the consequences of having ‘stuff,’ as well as our place in the universe and what makes people happy (or not so happy…).  It is spacey and cool, the set and props are interesting, and it is very well acted.

Probably the most important step toward hosting the show was speaking up and volunteering, and then following through with emails to the group.  I don’t think it’s too early to send out an email today if you seriously think you might want to host the show next year.  If you’re like me, if you don’t send an email right away when you are thinking about it, you will find yourself remembering too late later.  If you, however, aren’t a horrible, forgetful procrastinator, then you could probably email them in the spring.  They are touring 8 garages this year, and are hoping to do 12 next year, so I’d say your chances are pretty good.

Once I talked with Jennifer Ilse from OLA and expressed an interest, we arranged a time for them to come out and see my garage.  They measured the space, and we talked about how much area needed to be cleared out.  I had a garage sale to get rid of some things just to be sure that I would have enough room.  It was good motivation to have the sale – I’ve been talking about a garage sale for several years, but only did it the weekend before the show!  That was nice, too, because I was able to hand out fliers to the people who came to the garage sale.

One thing I would recommend as a host is to try to see the show before the weekend that you host.  OLA did have a reception for the last dress rehearsal, which I unfortunately had to miss, and I think it would have made a difference for me in telling people why they should come to my garage to see a play.  (Beside the fact that it’s just a flipping cool idea…)  I didn’t have a great grasp of what the play would be like before I saw it, although I was confident that people would like it.

Another thing that’s important is having a space for the actors to use as a ‘green room.’  That is, a room where they can change and warm up and put on makeup etc.  It worked out well for us because I have an extra room with a vanity, but I didn’t even think about it until the day they were doing the first performance.  I would have arranged it a little better for them, but I think it worked out.

Probably the most important task in hosting is to get the word out.  I contacted the Sun-Post, who put the play into the calendar, which was very nice of them.  There was also an article in the Star Tribune.  I also invited people on Facebook and in person.  OLA provided postcards for advertising, which I brought around to some local businesses.  I wish I had dropped some off at the library, as I had planned, but I completely forgot.  Maybe taking notes is a good idea.  Yeah, I’ll do that next year!  OLA also provided a cool sandwich board for my yard, with a sign saying which nights the show would be and where to call for reservations.

As far as other work, there wasn’t too much.  OLA did all of the set up as far as putting together the set and the risers.  I did set out some treats for people after the show and invited people to stay and meet the cast.  Paul and Jennifer do this when they have a show in their garage, and it’s really nice.  I think people enjoy meeting the cast after a show.

All in all, we had a great experience hosting.  It was fun, the cast and crew couldn’t be nicer people, and it just feels good to provide a space for people to come together as a community and see some world class art!  If you’re thinking about it for next year, I highly recommend it.  If not, at least be sure to go see the show!

This year’s tour is ongoing at ‘press time’ for my blog – check out OLA’s website to see where you can go catch the show!  Maybe Jay and I will see you there! (Yes, twice wasn’t enough for me, we are going to see it at someone else’s garage, too!)


Title Goes Here, or Why I Love Theater

I have been reading a lot and seeing a lot of plays.  Finished reading “In the Lake of the Woods” by Tim O’Brien in the morning yesterday.  Then I picked up “A Spy in the House of Love” by Anais Nin, obviously I read in no particular order.  Last night we saw “Apartment 3A” by the Workhorse Theatre Company in North Minneapolis.  This morning, more reading of Nin.

In the last three weeks, I got the chance to volunteer in the box office for Off-Leash Area’s production of “The Jury,” which I was fortunate enough to see three times.  As Jay and I watch less televised material, I find myself filling the space with theater and reading.  This is a good thing.  I feel so much more like ‘myself’ – more natural, less dissatisfied.

I don’t know what it is about live theater that touches me so – whether it’s great work or not – I think it’s that it’s the honest effort to be alive.  More than alive.  To be alive and at the same time juxtapose another life onto life.  I find it magical and fascinating, and I love that people try.  Another thing I love about live theater is that it only happens once.  The same play runs, obviously more than once, but the experience of it as an audience member – that only happens once.  If you see a show multiple times, you have multiple experiences, not the same experience muptiple times.

Normally, theater is just something I do for fun, enjoyment, enlightenment, too, but I have made  the discovery that it is also a coping tool for me.  When I can’t stand life – when things are just too difficult, take me to see a play.  I don’t care if it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas or what.  Live theater is a curative.  A salve.  Neosporin to my soul.  🙂

Anyway, I love theater.  So there you have it.  And books are not bad either.

Ivan the Drunk and his Terrible Tale of Woe – Theater Review

I had the pleasure of seeing “Ivan the Drunk and his Terrible Tale of Woe” on Saturday.  If it isn’t yet June 21st 2009, you haven’t missed it yet.  You should go.

The set is beautiful and cleverly transforms into layer upon layer of dream-like sequences and settings that Ivan recalls from life and returns to in his memory.  The memories are surreal – it’s not a strictly linear play – and the interaction between the music, setting, and acting/dancing are evocative of intense emotion, often with no words for minutes at a time.  Some of the scenes are nightmarish; but it is always clear that they are based on events from his life.  At no time does it seem completely random – the action is grounded in a reality, even though we as audience members only have a minimal sense of the reality, it’s clearly there.

There are light hearted moments, too, as Ivan talks to his burden, which he quite literally carries around with him.  The physicality of Paul Herwig leaves no doubt from the very opening moments that this burden is taxing.  I wondered, though, whether he would be able to share his burden with someone else if he would allow it.  He wouldn’t allow it, and thus we saw several examples of his loved ones being shut out of his life.  This is painful to watch, as it is a depiction of an emotion that many of us have felt – perhaps it is a universal emotion – of not being trusted with someone else’s pain.  The other performers, every one seamlessly controlled yet fluid and accessable, each have moments of physically embodying the hardships of enduring Ivan’s distrust.

I don’t even have a word for that kind of rejection – the pain that accompanies the knowledge that a loved one would rather choose to carry their burden alone, whether it be alcoholism, drug dependency, post-traumatic stress, mental illness, or any number of other sadnesses.  That kind of rejection doesn’t get talked about much in our society – and here is a play that articulates it beautifully – subtly, the other characters throw bruised look and a walk away – Ivan watches in horror as he realizes he has shut another loved one out – but unable to do anything but hang onto his burden for dear life.

And you get the sense that life is dear to him – even after all of his struggles in the war, after nearly being killed, after killing (in more ways than one), he wants to live.  He seems to wish for things to have been different – in one of his memories, he alienates one family member, and then has a memory-do-over and tries again, only to alienate another family member – and so on.  He can’t get it right, because he can’t rewrite his memories into falsehoods.  So we see the pain and hurt and degradation.

All the while, though, there is a sense of healing, too.  Perhaps it’s in the very beauty of the movement, the imagry, the music – but one gets the sense that Ivan does have a poetic soul.  You wouldn’t know it from his ‘tchotchkes,’ his baudy little soldier rhymes, but he must have, if the events in this play are going on in his mind.  The reasons for his pain, the contents of his burden, are slowly unpacked for the audience to see and feel – we get both sides of the rejection and pain, and realize that as personal as the rejection is for the other characters, it is a double-edge sword that hurts Ivan as much as them.

The play has no breaks – no intermissions or even black-outs, and Ivan is on stage the whole time.  There is physical and verbal comic relief, but it is closely tied to the tragedy, and by the end, as an audience member, I was physically tired just from watching and paying as much attention as I could.  In empathizing with Ivan, I had a sense of relief and anxiety for him as he approached the final scene.  I was glad to see how the resolution of the final minutes was uncompromising in maintaining Ivan’s reality, yet found a way to articulate joy and beauty in the process of life, even a tragicomic life such as Ivan’s.

In the end, I felt spent and sated – I felt trusted as an audience member to understand and interpret the action in my own way, and, surprisingly, I felt closer to some parts of my own life that have been difficult for me to process in the past.  Something shifted in my own way of thinking about rejections that I have experienced and family members whom I have not understood – maybe some room for compassion has opened up where there was only pain and rejection before.  Regardless of my personal emotional reaction to this play, I feel I can confidently say that it touches a deep chord of humanity and will give you a lot to consider, whether you have direct experience with someone like Ivan in your life or not.

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