Love to sing in the shower and practice your Academy Award acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror? Everyman Theatre has a program for you!
The company’s at-home theater series, Play-A-Role, returns to the Baltimore theater-sphere for its second year. Spearheaded by Everyman Board Member and PLAY-A-ROLE co-chair Betsy Nelson, the series is on track to be bigger and better than ever. (Two of its six installments already sold out.)
Nelson conceived of the series in order to integrate the supportive Everyman family into the theatrical fun. She organized members of the community to meet at different neighborhood homes and to put on their own show. Following a dinner and paired with wine and snacks, those who attend a Play-A-Role show get to do exactly that – play a role.
Members gather with scripts of classic plays, their roles assigned by nametag when they show up at their allocated destination. The actors get a taste of what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes, trying on a new personality for the night in a casual and relaxed setting. No one is getting on stage and audience members are reminded to be appreciative of all talent levels.
“We were looking for more ways to engage our community and this is an opportunity for people to come together in a unique setting in someone’s home and read a play out loud,” Jonathan Waller, managing director of Play-A-Role, says. “We roll up our sleeves and put on our acting hats and laugh at each other’s mistakes and line flubs.”
The atmosphere is casual, and the actors are free to explore their creative sides with their roles. Often times, Waller says, the group will hang around after the play concludes to discuss it. He added that this experience is moving and brings a group together quickly, so those who came in as strangers are leaving with hugs.
Acting veterans are among some of the members to show up to the shows, but it’s nothing too serious–usually just people who acted in their high school and college plays and have missed their days on the stage.
This year, all six of the homes featured in the series belong to Everyman board members. Because of the positive feedback from last year, the homeowners were excited to volunteer their living spaces to host a Play-A-Role show.
Each home presents a different show, giving attendees the chance to participate in more than one PAR show if they want to. Waller says they try to find plays with many characters so as to include as many actors as they can.
Susan Flanigan, a PAR board member and event host, mentions that the plays chosen are often classics, familiar to audiences and actors and possessing no controversial material.
The trio laughed at the possibility of introducing a musical into the mix.
“I would love to hear ideas on ways to do that,” Waller says.
Besides simply being a fun way to spend an evening, PAR has helped to make Baltimore theater more affordable.
“The proceeds of this event go to Everyman’s annual fund, which keeps ticket prices low for Baltimore professional theater,” Waller says.
This year’s series features six shows in six different Baltimore neighborhoods: “You Can’t Take It With You” in Guilford, “Arsenic and Old Lace” in Roland Park, “And Then There Were None” in Roland Park, “The Matchmaker” in Federal Hill, “The Philadelphia Story” in Baltimore County” and “The Importance of being Earnest” in Harbor East.
The team is hoping to expand to multiple series per year in the future.
As Waller says, “Theater is one of the biggest things you can bring to a community and when the audience and performers are all from the Baltimore community, it allows for something exciting and special.”
Tickets for the events are available at everymantheater.org/play-role.
Image courtesy of the Everyman Theatre Instagram.