Face your fears
Good Luck Macbeth Theatre offers a new series of unconventional, mini-run productions
If the final season of Game of Thrones left you with a bad taste in your mouth, take heart: At the very least, it planted the seed for a brave new series of entertaining, out-of-the-box theater productions in Reno that might help ease your pain.
“As a company, we all watched Game of Thrones, and we were all equally devastated by how horrendous the final season was,” laughed Christopher Daniels, executive director for Good Luck Macbeth Theatre Co. in Reno. “And then we thought, what a unique opportunity as artists to, instead of just complaining about it, do something about it, to put our own spin on it.”
In a matter of weeks, Daniels had a script for GoT Thrones? Winter is Back, GLM’s redux of GoT’s disastrous (by some accounts) season eight. The show, capitalizing on the comedic and improv talents of Daniels and other members of GLM, will run for just one weekend, Feb. 7-8.
This loving parody promises stronger character arcs and new approaches to disappointing plot points, according to Daniels, while also being ridiculous and over the top. “It’ll just be a really fun time, but it’ll be closure for so many of us who are frustrated by it,” he said. “I think it’ll be really cathartic.”
But other benefits of the show were clear right away: It provided something easy and fun to produce, requiring little preparation, during what would otherwise be a dark period between month-long productions. Doing more bite-sized shows also enables GLM to showcase a wider range of available talent with unconventional works, all while building audiences’ anticipation for more and inciting their fear of missing out on these short-but-sweet productions.
Hence, the FOMO series.
“In traditional theater, you put on a show and you rehearse for weeks, sometimes months, and then have runs that go anywhere from three to six weeks,” Daniels said. “What we wanted to do was short bursts of really exciting, unique programming that would be appealing to a broad-based audience.”
The FOMO series will feature two to three performances each of original or new works that haven’t been done in Reno, with very small windows in which to see them. “So everyone would be like, ’Oh, you have to see it,’” Daniels said, explaining that FOMO productions will take place year round, intermingled with GLM’s roster of traditional plays and musicals.
Room to improv
Following GoT Thrones?, FOMO returns at the end of February with Theatresports, a competition-style improv show originally developed in Alberta, Canada, by director Keith Johnstone, who observed techniques used in professional wrestling to generate audience excitement. Two teams are pitted against each other to compete in a series of improv games and theater scenes that are based on audience suggestions. A panel of judges score the teams, and a referee keeps participants in check. The challenges are bracket-style, with three different “shows,” each featuring different teams competing, leading up to the final game.
“We’re inviting all the local theater and production companies to form teams of four to six people to compete,” Daniels said, adding that up to six to eight teams total could compete. Prompts vary from the dramatic to the downright silly and aren’t necessarily just for formally trained improv actors. Audiences can buy specially priced tickets for the entire tournament, so they can cheer their favorite teams on to victory.
Additionally, the show will raise funds for suicide prevention, which, as Daniels explained, is particularly relevant to those in the arts, where depression is often pervasive yet hidden.
Unscripted, a new series of improvised plays and musicals directed by Tim Mahoney of Reno Improv and the GLM Board, will roll out April 10-11 and take place throughout the year. These roughly 90-minute plays are all completely made up on the spot, based on audience suggestion. Costumes, props and sets are composed with what’s available.
“Improvised plays are something that hasn’t been done in Reno before,” Daniels said. “You have all these improv groups doing these types of shows. The improv community is growing here, and we wanted to find that beautiful, harmonious blend between improv and theater, and this is it. The cast of about 12 to 16 people will cycle through depending on availability, but it is a true hodgepodge of theater and improv—people who may not have had the chance to work with each other before but are bringing different skill sets to the table to make an amazing show.”
Next, on June 5-7, comes an exciting collaboration with Genaro Mendez, assistant professor of voice at the University of Kansas, who will bring two short operas to GLM—a medium, or short dramatic opera, and a soap opera, both in foreign languages—in an effort to make opera more accessible and approachable to modern, uninitiated audiences and build the next generation of opera lovers. Formally trained operatic performers will be part of the shows, which give audiences a rare chance to see opera up close.
On June 13 and 14, the FOMO series presents The 10 10-Minute Play Festival, an idea that originated last year during the run of Greg Burdick’s new play, Monessen Falls. Burdick himself attended the show and led a workshop on how to write a 10-minute play. The participants in that workshop each wrote a 10-minute play that will be part of this festival.
How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes, running Sept. 7-8, is a unique, experimental show created by Sojourn Theatre out of Northwestern University in 2013 and has since been produced in major cities around the country. The idea, at its most basic, is what Daniels calls “a Choose Your Own Adventure theatrical experience.” The audience and actors engage in a dialogue about how to end poverty in our community—is it education, health care, local economic factors, or something else? As actors perform from a script that inserts audience participation and suggestions, audience members get to see their ideas played out before them. At the end, the audience votes on where to donate a cash bank of $1,000—which organization they feel, based on the show, best addresses poverty in the community.
“It’s a way to start the conversation, because we all know that when we go to see a show, we’re more open and receptive to hear messages and change perspectives on issues,” Daniels says, explaining that the show was inspired by the Netflix film, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, about a 1980s programmer adapting a fantasy novel into a video game and featuring multiple endings.
“Someone might be adamant that doing this one thing is the way to handle it, but by seeing the play, we hope, they might think, ’Oh, I never saw that side of it before or even thought about how that plays into the issue of poverty.’”
The FOMO series schedule is still in development, but GLM’s commitment to telling stories that haven’t been told, showcasing original work and making theater accessible to everybody will remain top priorities in that selection process.
“I think there’s something really cool about showcasing local talent here across the spectrum—writers, directors, actors, comedians, designers—and have them do something that no one has done before,” Daniels said. “Theater is such an amalgamation of different things, so this is really an opportunity to highlight the different types of theater that are out there. There’s truly something for everybody.”