Hope you’re hungry for a helping of fresh, original work. Spicing its latest production with something to please everyone, Gaslight Theatre Company will premier a series of new shorts by regional writers this weekend. Offering seven plays all set in a kitchen, the first Playroom features specially commissioned pieces by Richard Grunn, Matthew S. Hinton, Lori Myers, B. Garret Rogan, Rachel Strayer, Lukas Tomasacci, and Dan Waber.
“The great thing about one acts is that if you don’t like this one, wait 10 minutes,” said Hinton, who also conceived of and has produced Playroom. “It creates a lot of different universes for our actors and our audiences.”
Founded by a network of King’s College theatre alumni in August 2003, Gaslight’s earliest productions reflected its members’ training in the classics with a focus on Shakespeare in particular. The troupe quickly matured to also embrace challenging contemporary plays not likely to see production elsewhere in The 570’s musical-inclined community theater-dominated scene. Straddling Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, they’ve brought us such productions as The Mistakes Madeline Made, The Shape of Things, and Kimberly Akimbo in recent years. A second commitment was made to produce local, original work. This month’s Playroom is the first to follow that suit since Hinton’s Quiet Cowboy played the Mellow Theater in Scranton in January 2011.
“We were looking for something to do in the spring into the summer and we haven’t done a lot of one-acts, so I came up with this idea, sometime last year when we were first proposing the season, to have one room and get several playwrights to write for that room,” Hinton said.
The project has introduced new collaborators to the company — actors as well as writers. An ensemble cast performs in the scripts which were divvied up among directors with Hinton directing three plays, Christina Reynolds and Dave Reynolds each directing one, and King’s College student Brandi George tackling two.
Creator and author of a King’s College radio (WRKC) series titled The Adventures of Harry Flynn, Lukas Tomasacci submitted a play in which a writer channels and is increasingly possessed by the spirit of the late Hunter S. Thompson.
Hinton cited it as an example of how the short form empowers writers and producers to experiment with a freedom that the full-length form often prohibits.
“There’s a big risk taken with each one of them, and yet it’s not so monumental,” Hinton said.
Rachel Strayer’s “Empathy,” a play about a kidnapping, uses the elements of a memory play with particular efficacy, he said.
“It’s very dark, but very inventive.”
If all goes well, the company is considering continuing the program as a series with a new room of a house as the focus for next year.
“I am looking forward to the idea of this continuing. We might cycle a couple of people out and bring in a couple of others, always making room for fresh blood, but some of the people that will be around for the length of the series, hopefully, will end up with a whole houseful of plays. Or we’ll also end up with the ability to … match and mix them or pair them up.”
Playroom: An Evening of One-Act Plays by Regional Authors will be held at King’s College Theater, 133 N. River St., Wilkes-Barre, June 7-16, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10, or $8 for students and seniors. For information, visit www.gaslight-theatre.org; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or call 824-8266.