WARP (Writers and Actors Reading and Performing) is a small, independent group of playwrights and actors who get together every Tuesday night, 7 p.m., at the Odd Duck Theater in Capitol Hill. Together, they share plays they’ve written and act them out for each other. Everyone, from beginners to veterans, are welcome to join them. They are a great organization serving a real need in the Seattle theater community. It’s a safe place where playwrights can realize their work. Through WARP, actors get a rare opportunity to explore their talents in a large variety of roles. Since 2006, WARP has been a great starting place for many talented professionals who have gone on to contribute serious works of theatrical art for the benefit of the people of Seattle.
My first venture into Seattle theater started with WARP. I waited nearly six months before I attempted to audition for anything because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit anymore of my life to theater, an avenue of artistic expression that can often lead to financial strain and strife (as a side-note, you should never tell a full-time artist they shouldn’t be doing what they do ‘for-the-money.’ It’s like telling someone they deserve to struggle and remain poor in spite of their sacrifices. Tell the nine-to-five accountant, the day-time construction worker, and the part-time waitress they shouldn’t be in theater for the money – they are already making money in other ways – but don’t judge the artist who has decided to commit themselves entirely. Their dedication to their art demands they do it ‘for-the-money.’). Anyway, I saw the audition listing for WARP and decided I’d give it a try because they didn’t require me to have a monologue. All that was expected was that I come and be ready to cold-read some scripts.
I auditioned and had an amazingly fun time. The members of WARP I had the pleasure of working with reminded me of why I am a theater professional. Their camaraderie and combined passion for writing and acting great, original theater is unrivaled and I highly recommend anyone to join them on their Tuesday night gatherings if interested in developing yourself as an artist. And if you’re not interested in that, you should definitely come support their work in their two annual showcases held at TPS 4 in the Seattle Center Armory.
Tonight, I came to see their Fall 2012 show, Time is Running Out! It’s running November 9th, 10th, 16th, and 17th at 8 p.m. and November 18th at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $10 for everyone else. For the price of admission, you get to see eight terrific, completely original short plays written by eight different writers, and a particularly moving poem performed by the writer herself.
First, let’s talk about the poem. Mari Salinas wrote a poem about the end of the world. Seems cliche reading it from my words, but it was perhaps the most memorable part of the evening. I was captivated by her performance. She was unshaken, strong, and, well, fierce. She maintained eye contact with many of the audience members, including myself, and I was impressed with her ability to deliver an elegant, eloquent poem. I was especially moved by her imagery of “the world eating itself.” My guests, my mother and partner, were also quite moved by the poem.
The first play, Mistaken Identity, written and directed by Dale Kazdan, brings back an acting duo from previous seasons: Kazdan and Carmen Parisi. The two of them have an infectious chemistry on stage that makes us feel comfortable laughing. While my mother felt the the plot was predictable, she enjoyed the actors. I felt it was a great choice as a starter for the evening.
The second play, Fifi, written by Scot Bastien and directed by Ellen Covey, was an intellectual exploration into human’s relationship with animals. If you’re a particular lover of dogs, you may find yourself having some trouble getting into it, but even these sensitive types will appreciate the comedic timing of Donna Van Norman and Patrick Kevin. Their back and forth conversations over the phone are hilarious and Norman’s performance is was truly endearing.
The third play, Dad’s Wish, written by John Eisen and directed by Kazdan, was a story about death of a father in a family. I felt there were some issues in pacing for this play and it is a bit of a shame because I feel the comedy suffered for it. My mother actually lost her father this past year and felt the content was too close-to-home for to really enjoy. Comedies about loss are extremely challenging to pull-off. I think the writing of the play was good enough, but something felt halted and awkward about the interactions between actors in this piece. I think it would be interesting to see how it develops over the course of WARP’s two-week run. With better timing, I think the play has a great opportunity to be funny, but as of opening night, it had not reached its potential.
Planks for Nothing, a performance by Troupe Comique, consists of physical theater (i.e., they were silent and did not speak and depended on their physical movements to tell the story) over a backdrop of 1920’s-era film music. This was my first chance to see them in action. The last two seasons I participated in, I always had to go on-stage right after them, so I never got see it. It was really a wonderful experience overall. My mother felt it ended weak, but everything leading up to the ending was rather entertaining. I thought it was terrific and I found myself laughing many, many times, but it did have a few moments that dragged.
After the intermission came Better Together, written and directed by Jeremy January. There were some brilliant moments in this play, especially by Covey and Josie DeLellis. DeLellis is a complete riot as an aggressive cougar. What lacked in this play was a sense of cohesion for its overall theme. None of us were sure what to take away from the play. In some cases, it’s not necessary to take anything away, but for some reason, I felt like there should have been a concrete point presented and I don’t feel like that happened.
It Can’t Be Bad, written and directed by Stephen Clark, was truly a gem of a short play. It was shorter than the rest, but it was perfectly timed. I was particularly impressed with Mara Stevë’s performance. She has played a waitress in previous WARP plays, but this was the first time she really got a chance to shine and she did! It’s an interesting – and awfully true – take on how songwriters are able to write lyrics. It was definitely a favorite with my group.
The second-to-last play was Time Warp, written and directed by DeLellis. John Ruoff shines as an English aristocrat from the 19th century. His accent is hilarious. It’s a ghost story with a quantum physics twist. My mother and I enjoyed the play overall but felt it had the same issues as Better Together in that there didn’t seem to be a compelling point for the story. There wasn’t a clear take-away from the performance and I think the quality of the story idea itself is deserving of one.
Finally, The Velvet Thorn, written and directed by Ruoff, is an off-the-wall film-noir inspired play featuring Kazdan as a hitman, Parisi as a blond bombshell, and Cody Smith as a struggling voice teacher trying to off his wife. The comedic timing for this last play was perfect and Smith’s conviction as an actor was top-notch. I especially related to the comedy of his character being a voice teacher myself. The puns were over-flowing and nearly all of them went down without a hitch. As with the first play, this one was an excellent choice as a closer for the evening.
All-in-all, WARP’s fall showcase is well-worth the $5 or $10 admission. Where else can you see such a variety of talent for such a small price? After reflecting back on the show, the only play that really referenced the title of the show, Time is Running Out!, was Salinas’ poem. The rest of the plays really don’t have a lot to do with what I assumed to be the night’s theme of apocalypse or end-of-the world. In some ways, it is disappointing, but generally, I’m really glad I went to see the show and I think my mother was too. So – go see this show for its short run – it’s a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else and WARP definitely proves they are a great staple of Seattle’s independent theater community.