Theater

Rule of 7×7 @ The Tank

Rule 7 | Olivia's Rule: The second-to-last line of the play is a Yes or No question. The last line of the play is the answer.

Rule of 7x7

Spring Edition
7 writers | 7 rules | 7 new plays | 1 free beer | every other month

April 26, 2018

There is great freedom in boundaries. Boundaries define a location in space, give us a container in which to place meanings, and a bucket which can be turned upside down as a sand castle. Boundaries of skin and experience create the sense of "I" and "you", allowing "we" to be contained despite the gap of air between us.

Yes, borders may hem a person in politically, ideologically, or physically, but boundaries are different. They create the framework of a world where we are allowed to experiment and play safely, knowing that the craziness and uncertainty of the unknown beyond will stay tightly behind a locked door until we choose to open it again.

I love plays with boundaries. My favorite theater company, Superhero Clubhouse (of which I am on the Board of Directors), commits to the notion of imposed limitations as "Spatial, temporal, & narrative parameters that challenge our relationship to resources and allow us to exercise extreme creativity." Extreme creativity. A boundary actually enhances and liberates your creative mind.

Another program I am completely besotted with is Rule of 7x7, led by the incomparable Brett Epstein. Every two months, he calls upon 7 playwrights to contribute a "rule" - it can be anything, from a single word to a stage direction to a sound. Then, each playwright creates a short work incorporating ALL the rules. The whole process takes only 1 month: with 1 week to devise rules, 2 weeks to write and cast, 1 week to rehearse, and voila!

Hands down I can say the Rule of 7x7 plays are some of the most experimental, fun, joyous, and bizarre works that happen on a regular basis. I've seen the production at least 10 times since living in NYC, and no two plays are the same. Some are funny, some have made me cry (Brett, I'm looking at you, buddy), some make absolutely no sense at all.

What they all have in common is boundaries, and even this is a porous barrier. In this month's version, one rule was, "A character starts the play by reciting from memory something it's crazy to have memorized." Fairly straightforward, we had a play where someone memorizes all the left-hand turns in New Jersey, another memorizing their own Wikipedia page, and yet another memorizing, in alphabetical order, all the gruesome things that can happen to you in prison. Since it appeared at the top of the show, albeit in a more comedic form than "Call me Ishmael," this rule lay the groundwork for most of the content that followed.

Other rules tended to get lost, such as Rule 3: Someone expresses thanks. You can imagine why, because this boundary is too commonplace to be noticeable. We're so accustomed to gratitude that it flies right by unnoticed. On the other hand, the rule "Bagels." produced hilarity in all 7 of the pieces.

By far the most bizarre play was "Golden Boys," written by Gracie Gardner. Two almost completely naked men lounge on a red catwalk carpet and have a not-quite-conversation cum brag-fest about their life's accomplishments. These include being terribly terrible, the worst person in the world, and being mom's favorite son. Oh...and did I mention they're completely painted gold? Devoid of any classic narrative structure we simply laugh at the ridiculousness, culminating in an extraordinary exchange of nick-names they call each other. These names become increasingly grotesque, until finally one Golden Boy makes sex noises for at least 2 minutes! And it didn't come off as gauche at all. Rather, the play couldn't have been more extraordinary.

The genius of Rule of 7x7 is its boundaries. Playwrights and directors are allowed to be fabulously creative in a world where sensibility and senselessness can exist simultaneously. It's an experiment in experimentation, and if we all played with rules a little more our work might be stronger.

Or at least fun for one night out at The Tank with beers and good friends.

And isn't that what it's all about? Yes.

Image courtesy The Tank NYC website

Produced & Hosted by Brett Epstein
Christian Roberson (Sound/light designer)
Xan Russell (Dramaturg)

The Lineup:
LEFT TURN ARROW
Written by Rachael Mason
Directed by Alex Tobey
Starring Turna Mete and Sean McIntyre

DECIDE THAT YOU WILL
Written by Seth McNeill
Directed by Adam Knight
Starring Lauren Riddle, Olivia Stoker, and Monica Bradley

MEATHEADS
Written by Julia Specht
Directed by Charles Quittner
Starring Allison Taaffe and Shannon Morrall

THE OCTOPUS
Written & Directed by Will Dagger
Starring Alex Herrald and Rachel Sachnoff

GOLDEN BOYS
Written by Gracie Gardner
Directed by Dustin Wills
Starring Bennett Clarkson and Peter Falls

TIMOTHEEEEEEE!!!
Written by Ryan Drake
Directed by Emma Miller
Starring Julia Greer, Sarah Chalfie, and Patrick K. Dooley

DEPRESSED MUSICAL DETECTIVES
Written by Olivia Stoker
Directed by Charlotte Bydwell
Starring Brett Aresco and Briana Pozner

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