Last week, I attended the opening night of "A Girl Wrote It", an evening of four One-Acts presented by Wide Eyed Productions. As you might guess from the title, each of the plays is penned by a woman.
Upon entering the Red Room Theatre (fittingly just upstairs from the KGB bar), the program note from Artistic Director Kristin Skye Hoffmann informs you that a tiny 17% of main stage plays in the United states were written by women. Wide Eyed Productions received 388 submissions from aspiring woman playwrights, and picked four to share with its audience.
The production begins and is woven together by a series of monologues expertly and hilariously performed by Wide Eyed co-founder Liz White. I'm sure it is with no small sense of irony that Ms. White opens the show as a teacher begging, pleading, and commanding a female student (or is it the audience) not to write plays. She tells of the trials and tribulations of her own foray with dreams of Broadway greatness, and the crushing, defeating, impossibility of a woman succeeding as a playwright. Ms. White exits and the first of four plays by a woman who refused to heed her advice begins.
Clementine by Lynda Green, Selection by Kris Montgomery, The Return of Toodles Von Flooz by Lisa Ferber and The Plight of the Apothecary by Elizabeth Birkenmeier are each solid pieces of work, and are as stylistically varied as any four plays could be. They are aptly directed and powerfully acted by many of Wide Eyed's usual suspects along with some faces I hope will become usual suspects.
More than anything, the feeling that struck me as I sat in the darkened theatre and followed the journey of each of the scripts was that this is what New York theatre should be. These shows and their actors are raw and experimental. There is a sense of exploration and novelty. A few years ago, just a door or two down E. 4th street, I imagine a similar feeling surrounded the opening night of another experimental piece: Rent.
Will one of these actors or directors soon be a household name? Take a look at the way Andrew Harris makes sense of Mamet/Waiting for Godot babble in his scenes in Plight of the Apothecary. Or the way Kristin Skye Hoffmann and her superb cast (Colin McFadden, Lisa Mamazza, and Brianne Mai) nail beat after comic-genius beat from start to finish in The Return of Toodles Von Flooz.
In 2009, NYTheatre.com named Wide Eyed productions a "person of the year." Their commitment to taking risks, giving women the opportunity to have their work produced, and standing up for the art (not just the business) of theatre, make Wide Eyed Productions an important part of the New York theatre scene. If you haven't gotten to know them, "A Girl Wrote It" is scheduled to run for two more weeks, and the egalitarians at the Wide Eyed box office have declared Thursday nights pay what you can.
If Broadway is the Budweiser and Coors of the theater scene, then Wide Eyed is the interesting micro brew that you are so relieved to see on the menu. Their work is different, surprising, and varied, just like theater should be. So if you are looking for something refreshingly different, look no further.