The brand new plays of Teatro Serpiente's sixth annual Gorilla Theater Festival will hit the stage Saturday (May 26), 7 p.m., at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off …
The brand new plays of Teatro Serpiente's sixth annual Gorilla Theater Festival will hit the stage Saturday (May 26), 7 p.m., at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west. The performances are a suspenseful, hilarious tightrope walk.
Will the actors remember lines they'd never seen before that morning? Will props behave? Will hastily assembled DIY scenery remain standing? It's always worth the price of admission to find out.
Every spring since 2013, the Gorilla challenge has loomed like a thespian equivalent of an Everest climb: thirty-two hours from blank page (or empty Word doc) to onstage performance. Friday morning (May 25), writers will be gathering to receive their assignments. They'll be assigned a play length, a prop they must include and their cast -- not actual identities, only gender and approximate age.
The writers then have exactly 24 hours to complete their short plays. Saturday morning, the baton passes to the actors, who commit to spending the entire day learning the plays, figuring out casting, and rehearsing right up to the very last minute. Every year brings a mix of returning regulars and newbies. This year's writers and actors include talent from Albuquerque, Dixon and Los Alamos as well as a core group of Taoseños.
Teatro Serpiente veterans Gina Gargone and Scott Tennant will host Saturday's show. "Every year it's something new, but the format remains the same," Gargone said. "What we create each year is our theater sand mandala that, once put onstage, blows away in the late spring wind never to be seen again."
Poet and educator Ned Dougherty will curate the scripts this weekend. "Participating in Gorilla changed the trajectory of my life as a writer," he said. "Teatro Serpiente has created this incubator for new work, and it encourages creative people, writers and actors alike, to take huge chances. The entire process of this festival is so exhilarating. To me, Gorilla Theater weekend is the best time of the year."
Taos High School Drama director Adam Overley was one of the event's founders. "It's definitely going to be very much its own unique experience," he said. "What's great about it is that we don't know exactly what that will be until we're up there performing."
Serena Jade Smith has both written and acted for Gorilla over the past years. "It's a terrifying, exhilarating and often hilarious experience. We don't get to know anything about the script we'll be using or the actors we'll be working with until the day of. It gives the entire experience some interesting stakes."
Taos High School student Zoey Birdsong recently had the distinction of having her original play performed by fellow students for THS Drama's One-Acts show. "It's my first time doing Gorilla Theater and I'm really excited," she said. "I'm looking forward to flexing my writing muscles and seeing what I'm able to produce in 24 hours. I'm also looking forward to doing this with all of my friends and seeing who ends up acting out my skit."
Makaela Vogel is returning as an actor after a few years off. "This experience is a day full of fun. I haven't done it in a while and I've really missed it."
"I love Gorilla Theater," said returning actor Patrick MacDonald. "It's a great group of people to feel alive with on stage, caught up in the moment of making it happen."
Jenna Basehart is returning as an actor for her third year in a row. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity for fresh and new theater," she said.
Irene Loy participated in 2016 as both writer and actor. "I loved the experience and vowed to do it over and over again. I'm happy to return to the festival this year as an actor," she said.
"This will be my fourth year," said actor Sabina Jones. "I love it when theater is authentic and brings people together. That's what Gorilla Theater is! I'm excited for another year. It'll be a hoot."
"I love meeting new people and the challenge," said Kate Martin, who will be acting this weekend.
Actor Jeff Spicer cited "the laughs, the joy, the camaraderie, the terror" as reasons for returning each year.
When asked if there was more we should know about her, actor Julianne Moyer responded enigmatically, "I love lizards."
Karla Eoff encapsulated the 32-hour roller coaster ride: "If you don't do Gorilla, I have to assume you are a sane person. Otherwise you'd get crazy for a day and have too much fun."
Rita O'Connell has been a Serpiente cohort from its inception. "The best part of Gorilla Theater is how supportive the audience is," she said. "Everyone there knows exactly what kind of pressure the actors have been under all day as they scramble to learn, block and perform these brand-new scripts. So when someone goes up on a line, which is constantly, it's usually met with raucous applause and a huge outpouring of emotional support from the crowd. There's no way to fail at Gorilla Theater. Everybody's a winner. And winning at theater is really what life is all about."
Tickets for the Saturday night show are $10 at the door. For more information, visit teatroserpiente.com or call the venue at (575) 758-1900.
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