Tuesday, January 25, 2011


One of the first productions I did at The Brick, back in 2004, was a performance of The Pragmatists, an obscure early play by the equally obscure 20th-century Polish playwright Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, aka Witkacy. A theorist in addition to a creator, his concept of Pure Form posited a method of creating theatrical art using formal elements (color, sound, movement, etc.) as the primary structures of the play and then letting the narrative fall into place where it will, as nearly an afterthought. A catchphrase he used to encapsulate this theory was "Unity in Plurality."

My company, Piper McKenzie, has gone on to do many productions at The Brick, and my producing-and-marriage partner Hope Cartelli and I have both ended up becoming associate directors of the space. I would say that the phrase Unity in Plurality has been a kind of unspoken motto throughout all of this - both within our individual works and over the course of our (ahem) oeuvre as a whole. However, little that we've done has embodied the idea quite so fully as the project that we're premiering at The Brick this weekend: Piper McKenzie's Dainty Cadaver.

The idea behind the Dainty Cadaver is that of an exquisite corpse: one writer writes a scene; a second writer reads it and writes her own; a third reads the second scene - but not the first - and writes his own - and so on. It's a game we've attempted before, and it played a small role in The Brick's prehistory (see this origin story), but this time we're trying it on a much bigger scale: 18 writers creating three plays, which have been staged by three directors over the course of three nights, featuring more than two dozen performers.

The directors more than have their work cut out for them trying to reign this raging river of constantly shifting narrative into a single stream - creating Unity in Plurality, natch - but what I've seen from rehearsals (full disclosure: I have a cameo in Team B's piece so I've been following that process pretty closely) has made me even more excited about what I've seen than I was reading the plays on paper - and I was VERY excited about that. Watching these awesome writers - some of whom are familiar faces to Brick audience, others of whom are relatively new - figure out how to use their own voice and abilities while building upon each other's work has been really exciting, and I'm fascinated to see what audiences think about this grand experiment. Will these plays be believable as sustained narratives, or will they be totally balls-out chunks of random weirdness? Or somewhere in between?

In the meantime, the writers have all been participating in a series of Mad-Libs-style blog interview profiles doodads on PMcK's blog The Piperline. They'll give you an glimpse into the personalities that have led these individuals into the bastard art of playwriting - as opposed to something respectable, like locksmithery or being a soldier of fortune - as well as a hint of what kind of mayhem to expect on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Check it out!
And there are clearly more to come over the next few days! Also, Aaron Riccio wrote about the piece today, using it as an opportunity to use the phrase "the esteemed and always-up-for-an-experiment Brick Theater," which is certainly a nice thing. Buy your tickets for all three today! Unity in Plurality! WOOOOOO!!!


Timothy McCown Reynolds said...
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Timothy McCown Reynolds said...

WITKACY would definitely be into what we are doing!
*I cannot help but note that "Unity in Plurality" bears a striking resemblance to our native country's own motto "e pluribus unum"...
There's an unforeseen angle for future fundraising: Theatre of Pure Form = American Theatre...

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