Photos by Patrick Toole and Ilan Bachrach.
Emerging theatre from a new generation
by Larry Murray
The Emergent Ensemble Theatre is a new performing company we want to tell you about, and they are currently performing Annie Baker’s The Aliens in a back alley tunnel off the main drag in Housatonic, Massachusetts. Word is, it’s wonderful. The unlikely humorous and heart wrenching play is not in a theatre, but being performed next to the Housatonic River at 430 Park St. It runs Friday, May 29 through Sunday June 7th, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings at 8 p.m.
For those who think theatre has become the last refuge of the elderly and set-in-their-ways crowd, this new company is breaking all the traditions and reinventing the art form for a new generation of fearless explorers of life, drama and meaning. They are home grown, and have been using the Front Street Gallery in Housatonic as their rehearsal space, but when it came time to perform, they needed a very special space, one that would lend itself to Baker’s story.
They ultimately decided on a non-traditional venue, a tunnel attached to a historic mill building in Housatonic. It provides a perfect backdrop for the story. To quote the production’s director in Berkshire Edge: “We thought about using a coffee shop, but discarded the idea quickly because the play is hyper-realistic. On the other hand, I didn’t want it to get lost in an outdoor space, either” said Maizy Broderick Scarpa. “So we started searching for more traditional theatres. But while rehearsing in Housatonic we found this tunnel and it was instantly clear that we had to perform here; not only does it provide the framing the play needs, but the entire company is completely energized by the space.” Indeed as you can see by the images above, it works well.
The Aliens is a coming-of-age story, set in the staff area behind a coffee shop in small town in Vermont. Jasper and KJ are two men in their early thirties who smoke, read Bukowski, sing songs, and waste time imagining themselves as heroes of iconic Americana. Enter Evan, a tragically awkward high school student who has just started working at the coffee shop. Tasked with getting them to leave — “It’s like a loitering thing,” he says — he becomes entangled in their existence as they adopt him as their protégé. Baker’s trademark knack for capturing rural life imbues The Aliens with humor and heart, as the characters struggle to connect with each other, society and themselves.
Annie Baker’s wondrous new play, The Aliens, is directed by Maizy Broderick Scarpa has music and lyrics by Michael Chernus, Patch Darragh and Erin Gann.
The two act play stars Colin McCarthy, Alex Dourneman, and Patrick Toole with Stage Manager Annalise Clausen. The show has a suggested donation of $15. You get your tickets at a table in the parking lot across from The Brick House and stroll down to the tunnel where you will find program notes scrawled on the walls.
The Emergent Theatre Ensemble is a group of theatre artists that came together this year. On their Facebook page they say they “Rise out of the surroundings in different configurations depending on the requirements of the moment.” And their first public event has indeed emerged.
They are so new their publicity is still bare-bones though all those who have come in contact with them have found their story and choice of first play fascinating and newsworthy. At this stage of their development, word of mouth and the social media will likely be enough to fill their few seats – and I admit I have mined their Facebook page for the photos included here.
For more information about the company, email firstname.lastname@example.org
We wish them well, and hope to see them first hand, in action, soon.
Annie Baker grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her full-length plays include THE FLICK (Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Susan Smith Blackburn Award, Obie Award for Playwriting), CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION (Playwrights Horizons, Obie Award for Best New American Play, Drama Desk nomination for Best New American Play), THE ALIENS (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Obie Award for Best New American Play), BODY AWARENESS (Atlantic Theater Company, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play/Emerging Playwright), and an adaptation of Chekhov’s UNCLE VANYA (Soho Rep, Drama Desk nomination for Best Revival), for which she also designed the costumes. Her plays have been produced at over 150 theaters throughout the U.S., and have been produced internationally in over a dozen countries. Other recent honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Lilly Award, and Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship. A published anthology of her work, The Vermont Plays, is available from TCG.