A funny thing hap­pened on the way to dessert Iron­weed Pro­duc­tions’ Cre­at­ing a Scene (in a Restau­rant)

CRE­AT­ING A SCENE (IN A RESTAU­RANT)

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Jen­nifer Levin The New Mex­i­can

IT'S Mon­day night and you’re in the mood for a beer and a burger, so you head over to Sec­ond Street Brew­ery at the Santa Fe Rai­l­yard and set­tle in at a ta­ble with your sig­nif­i­cant other. You’ve just placed your or­der when it be­comes ob­vi­ous that the cou­ple at the ta­ble next to yours, whose rather an­i­mated dis­cus­sion about per­sonal mat­ters you were del­i­cately try­ing not to over­hear, is now en­gaged in a full-blown pub­lic ar­gu­ment. The woman is point­ing and ac­cus­ing, and the man looks like he is ei­ther go­ing to start cry­ing or storm out at any sec­ond. The whole restau­rant is watch­ing. Fi­nally, the man throws a $20 bill on the ta­ble and they leave with­out fin­ish­ing their drinks. The noise level has just re­turned to nor­mal when a young woman rushes in from out­side and be­gins to tell a story to ev­ery­one at the bar. You give up try­ing to have your own con­ver­sa­tion and lis­ten to her in­stead.

“There is def­i­nitely that feel­ing that ev­ery­thing is just get­ting height­ened to a level where ev­ery­one can ob­serve it,” said Scott Har­ri­son, artis­tic direc­tor of Iron­weed Pro­duc­tions. With Wendy Chapin, he is co-di­rect­ing a se­ries of short scenes and mono­logues at Sec­ond Street Brew­ery in the Rai­l­yard on Mon­day, Nov. 14, and Tues­day, Nov. 15, called Cre­at­ing a Scene

(in a Restau­rant), which could con­tain some of the el­e­ments de­scribed in the above sce­nario. Har­ri­son and Chapin spoke to Pasatiempo on the con­di­tion that they not be asked to re­veal any spe­cific plot points

or names of ac­tors. Be­cause Santa Fe is small enough to have its own sta­ble of rec­og­niz­able faces from the lo­cal theater scene, many of whom are in­volved in this project, they want as much con­tent as pos­si­ble to be a sur­prise. “It’s the­atri­cal­ized, but it’s all stuff that could po­ten­tially take place in front of wit­nesses,” Chapin said.

Cre­at­ing a Scene has no in­tro­duc­tion, no in­ter­mis­sion, and no charge for ad­mis­sion. Peo­ple are free to come and go, talk to the servers and bar­tenders, and dine as they would on any other night. The di­rec­tors and cast are pre­pared for the pos­si­bil­ity of dis­rup­tion, and even ex­cited by the prospect of some­thing un­ex­pected hap­pen­ing. Har­ri­son and Chapin have both worked pri­mar­ily in tra­di­tional theater venues prior to this project, and Har­ri­son, who tends to se­lect clas­sic Amer­i­can plays for Iron­weed, has not di­rected much new work be­fore. He orig­i­nally en­vi­sioned set­ting a col­lec­tion of ex­cerpts of pub­lished plays in a restau­rant but found out the roy­alty fees would be cost-pro­hib­i­tive for some­thing like that. He put out an open call for short scenes and mono­logues by lo­cal writ­ers, stip­u­lat­ing that they must take place at Sec­ond Street Brew­ery. Nine orig­i­nal pieces were se­lected from 61 sub­mis­sions. Har­ri­son based his choices on how the sub­mis­sions com­ple­mented each other and how seam­lessly he could weave them to­gether. The fi­nal works are by Jonathan Dixon, Gary Dontzig, Ned Dougherty, Natalie Fox, Bruce King, Kita Me­haffy, Kat Sawyer, Thomas Wood­ward, and Alaina Warren Zachary.

Though the play is not tech­ni­cally a “flash mob,” since pa­trons will be made aware upon en­ter­ing the restau­rant that they will be watch­ing a per­for­mance, Har­ri­son and Chapin are call­ing Cre­at­ing a Scene “pop-up” theater, an­other au courant term that en­com­passes a va­ri­ety of tem­po­rary hap­pen­ings — from TV-show themed din­ners to comic-book stores to po­etry read­ings — that “pop up” in un­likely lo­ca­tions for a few days, a few hours, or even a few min­utes. Pop-up theater has its roots in street and guer­rilla theater, and the form tends to cir­cum­vent the need for tra­di­tional spa­ces and con­texts.“The phi­los­o­phy be­hind what we’re do­ing is that you don’t have to tell an au­di­ence much,” Chapin said. “If you start per­form­ing in al­most any environment, peo­ple start to pay at­ten­tion as long as you pull their fo­cus.”

Har­ri­son and Chapin pre­vi­ously worked to­gether when she di­rected and he starred in Iron­weed’s 2014 pro­duc­tion of Good Peo­ple by David Lindsey-Abaire, which was per­formed at the Santa Fe Play­house, as were sev­eral pre­vi­ous Iron­weed pro­duc­tions. In 2015, the Play­house stopped open­ing its doors to out­side theater com­pa­nies and renters, which is what led Har­ri­son to con­tem­plate other types of venues, in­spired by ad­vice from a long-ago theater teacher who told stu­dents to take their scenes out­side, into

the pub­lic — any­where but in the act­ing stu­dio. “You hear all the time in Santa Fe that there’s not enough space to do theater, but we don’t need a theater. We found a restau­rant,” he said. “Sec­ond Street has those big garage win­dows and the size is per­fect. You can see what’s go­ing on from al­most any­where in the room, so there’s not an is­sue with peo­ple’s view be­ing blocked from booths.”

Iron­weed Pro­duc­tions will re­turn to form in fall 2017, with Arthur Miller’s The Cru­cible at El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe — but for Chapin, who has been di­rect­ing and teach­ing theater in Santa Fe since the 1990s,

Cre­at­ing a Scene has opened a door. She most re­cently served as the artis­tic direc­tor of the Adobe Rose Theatre but left be­fore the end of her first sea­son, in sum­mer 2016, cit­ing cre­ative and man­age­rial dif­fer­ences. Now she has re­fo­cused her cre­ative en­ergy on form­ing a grass­roots theater col­lab­o­ra­tive that will con­cen­trate on pop-up theater, works in the pub­lic do­main, and ways to con­nect with au­di­ences that might not be in­clined to­ward for­mal sit-down theater ex­pe­ri­ences.

The first full run-through of Cre­at­ing a Scene took place a few days be­fore Har­ri­son and Chapin sat down with Pasatiempo. Nei­ther had watched the scenes di­rected by the other un­til that re­hearsal, and both were pleas­antly sur­prised by how much the writ­ing of the pieces varies in tone and ap­proach, en­com­pass­ing both humor and pathos. “It’s not all ob­serv­ing peo­ple at a ta­ble do­ing stuff,” Har­ri­son said. “There may be ac­tiv­ity in the bar. Ac­tors might talk to peo­ple in the restau­rant. There might be one scene that’s poignant and then one that’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent. They just kind of work in a way that’s not static, in terms of what the ac­tion is.”

The phi­los­o­phy be­hind what we’re do­ing is that you don’t have to tell an au­di­ence much. If you start per­form­ing in any environment, pople start to pay at­ten­tion. — co-direc­tor Wendy Chapin

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