The year was 2020. Need I say more? It was a taxing year to say the least, but for those in the performing arts it was downright grueling. Theatres had battened down the hatches, actors were masked up (and not in a sock and buskin kind of way), and audiences were confined to the ‘not so luxurious’ balcony seats of their own homes. What’s a playwright to do in order to avoid finding themselves typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” like Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the crazed writer in The Shining? The answer had to be ‘get creative.’
A local writing group came up with an idea. The five writers would each write a variation on a theme using a single park bench as their only prop and location. An outdoor setting with only a few characters would enable a safe, socially distanced way to create a performance. Since there would be no live audience, it would be need to be filmed. The tiny, yet mighty team took on the ‘not so small’ task of writing, filming, recording, editing, and animating the short film of five linked stories.
The five plays and writers are Jason Erickson (Congratulations on Your New Bench), Joseph
Steck (I.R.L. Sal), Maria Beatty (Dog Gone It), Kitt Laws (So Close), and Jeffrey M. Brown (Rob
and Bob). Video and production was done by Joseph Steck and Jason Erickson. Directed by
Wilson Milam, Steve Stolee, Jeffrey Brown and Kitt Laws.
Congratulations on Your New Bench
Tom and Mary…. Last year something happened, and the bench where they first met became a place neither of them wanted to revisit. But now, with the city revamping the park, the bench is being given away in a contest that will test “Who can remain on the bench the longest?” and Tom and Mary are fated to meet again at the spot that brought them together.
A friendly but very talkative stranger, Sal imposes herself on a shy, reserved young woman named Bryanna, who at first is put off by the stranger’s back-slapping bonhomie. But as the conversation progresses, Bryanna is gradually brought out of her shell, and through the stranger, meets Maria. In I.R.L. SAL, Bryanna and Maria agree that Sal’s boisterous personality may be just what the world needs.
Dog Gone It
When a break-up occurs, the shared property needs to be divided. But when some of that property is the family dog, a new relationship is formed between the jilted human partner and the dog. How well will Kara cope without Kurt, and will Biscuit continue to be her sounding board about her loss? Or will Biscuit begin to chafe at his new role as therapist-in-chief? In Dog Gone It we listen in as Kara vents about Kurt, and discover how she and Biscuit learn to survive together without Kurt.
A friend in need is a friend indeed, but what if what the friend says she needs is not good for her? Is Andy a better friend by not giving Cynthia what she says she wants? Or should he go along with Cynthia’s request even if he sees the bigger picture? Perhaps a real friend should say “no” when it really matters. So Close explores how the bonds of friendship are tested most when a friend is truly in need.
Rob and Bob
Two strangers meet serendipitously on a park bench. What are the protocols for physical and social distancing, and how are these negotiated in a public space? How much sharing is too much, and what happens when one man is seeking solitude while the other connection? What if their roles are reversed when the boundaries are pushed too far? Rob and Bob explores the challenges of human connection and the risks of over-sharing in a time when we alternately seek solitude and companionship.
The ‘Park Bench Stories’ 40-minute short film will air continuously on YouTube, Facebook and at IslandTheatre.org from Friday, May 21st at 7:30 pm PDT through Saturday, May 29th at 8:30 pm PDT. https://www.islandtheatre.org/park-bench-stories
ALISA STECK is the Communications Manager for Arts & Humanities Bainbridge. On top of grant writing and other duties, she is currently helping to lead the efforts of creating a Certified Creative District for Bainbridge Island. Also a photographer, her focus is on capturing the beautiful waterways of the Puget Sound region, vineyards and small farms.