The butcher shop is open for Labor Day Weekend.

Butcher Shop by Dylan Hillerman.

Butcher Shop by Dylan Hillerman.

More free time, please Labor Day always feels like the end of summer to Arts DEVO. Living in this college town, the three-day weekend is like summer’s encore, an invitation to stop working so that we can squeeze out the year’s last ounces of freedom.

OK, maybe I’m being a little overdramatic, but it is a good excuse to just float (down the river, down the highway, through Bidwell Park, or to the next pint of beer) for a few more days.

The Butcher Shop is open Of course, there is a built-in Labor Day tradition that provides a most natural and satisfying punctuation to the easy days of summer. For the fourth year now, Chico’s theater community—past and present—will convene at “a secret almond barn” under the stars for a two-night festival of original one-acts and live music.

The legend of the original Butcher Shop has been held up as the impetus for the Latimer boys—Dylan and Denver—and their friends starting the Blue Room Theatre, which has been around for now nearly two decades. But while those inspired backyard happenings inform the freewheeling nature of the Butcher weekend, the current annual version is something much more. Chico-theater alumni from as far away as New York City come back to town each year to join the cream of the current local crop in what’s become both a reunion and a celebration of generations of energetic community theater. You won’t find a more creative, warm and fun local event all year long.

Some of the original works on the 2012 schedule (mostly by and starring returning theater superstars) include: Interview with a Zombie by Dan Kowta, directed by Yana Collins Lehman and starring Jeff DiFranco and Shannon McNally; Life Boat, written and directed by Michael Gannon; Moonship Journey, written and directed by Denver Latimer; and Night of the Purple Pear, written and directed by Jesse Karch. I asked Karch to tell me about his one-act (which the actors in Brooklyn, California and Portland rehearsed via remote video over the Internet) and this is what he emailed me:

Night of the Purple Pear is a poetic meditation on machine-assisted dreaming. The play follows two sleep-deprived film editors played by Dylan Latimer and Steve Eproson as they try to meet their deadline. The play is told through scenes from the films they are working on. The play features music and puppets. The play was written in a brand new way, written entirely by a software that can translate the thoughts of your cat.”

Homecoming queen: Amanda Detmer.

The Butcher Shop plays this weekend, Saturday & Sunday, Sept. 1 & 2, 8 p.m. (green show at 7:15 p.m.). It’s at the end of Estes Road (which is at the end of Normal Avenue), it’s free (bikes are free, but there’s a charge for parking cars) and refreshments will be served.

Speaking of the Blue Room Artistic director Fred Stuart is going to hand out the theater’s 2012-2013 schedule during the Butcher Shop fest, but he was kind enough to send me a sneak peak—and it looks very promising. There are a couple of real meaty choices under the theme of “civility,” especially God of Carnage, which will be a theater-reunion of its own, bringing together Stuart and Gannon, plus Johnny Lancaster and local-girl-done-Hollywood Amanda Detmer to play under the direction of Coy Middlebrook. Here’s the new season: Nov. 8-16: The Little Prince; Dec. 5-15: A Christmas Carol; Jan. 9-19: God of Carnage; March 7-16: Lord of the Flies; May 8-18: Monty Python’s Spamalot. And, for October, Inspire School of the Arts will take over the stage with a production of You Can’t Take it With You.