Theater

Outsized and filled with potential

'The Giant Desk Plays' bring experimental theater and a sense of hope to the stage

By T.L. Testerman
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 5/31/18

The Taos theater community has the heart, the fire and the soul to make great live performances.What they need most is the place to make it happen, according to Chelsea Reidy the …

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Theater

Outsized and filled with potential

'The Giant Desk Plays' bring experimental theater and a sense of hope to the stage

Posted

The Taos theater community has the heart, the fire and the soul to make great live performances.

What they need most is the place to make it happen, according to Chelsea Reidy the director of "The Giant Desk Plays," a frolicsome, perspicacious examination of some deep-rooted social norms by local playwright Ned Dougherty. Reidy said she's been thinking about the work as an exploratory project for the Taos Community Auditorium where she works as a technician.

"Back in the day (at the Taos Community Auditorium), there were musicals and big productions," Reidy said. "That has not happened for a long time … let us dip our toes in the water and continue a dialogue of how can the TCA support local live performance."

Performances of "The Giant Desk Plays" are at 7 p.m. today and Friday (May 31-June 1), also Thursday (June 7) and June 8 at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

According to Dougherty, the play is about what happens in a world where desks are six feet tall. A plethora of metaphors are laced throughout the script about what the desk symbolizes.

"Each scene brings a new prop on stage," he said. "That prop stays on the stage for the next scene and is incorporated somehow in a different way than the scene before it. This culminates in a messy, chaotic stage that is so fun to look at. The actors play multiple roles. They have to crawl on, fall from, climb up, live under this huge desk and that's amazing to watch."

The tenacious Taos thespians who are pumping new life and meaning into Dougherty's script are Gina Gargone, William Hall, Wilfred McGuire and Susan Nuss. A series of seven energetic vignettes are staged around a huge desk.

The actors romp through the scenes transitioning seamlessly into a total of 15 characters. These are all desk-related existential prepositions circling over, under and around -- you guessed it -- the desk.

Dougherty posits, "The desk is everything, and it is nothing. Maybe you're living near a 'Giant Desk' right now ... It's such a mundane thing, but the symbolism is endless. Power dynamics, prestige, ambition are all wrapped up in the meaning … Isn't it a bit absurd how we give furniture such power? ... Desks are where we tell our secrets and lies and hide the money."

Dougherty said that living in Taos, he finds it hard to get out and see shows, so he reads and finds inspiration with playwrights, such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Suzan-Lori Parks and British playwright Caryl Churchill. "What they are willing to put on a page rocks my imagination. Their plays are energetic and soulful, and political without preaching," he said.

His current play is inspired in part by an essay by Lori- Parks about theater. "One idea that stuck out is that American theater is too often uninterested in marveling at live bodies on stage," he said. "That really excited me. This art form doesn't have to be so cerebral. We should be fascinated by how people move, not how they deliver a line … Let's get actors moving and doing something worth watching along with the drama and comedy and whatever else is happening on a character/plot level. In this show, people move."

Karen Thibodeau, Taos thespian, writer, producer and director of the Taos Children's theater, said she hopes "The Giant Desk Plays" are a catalyst for producing more live theater at the TCA. Thibodeau has inspired generations of young thespians and their families while thrilling audiences with polished productions. '

"It's a time-sensitive situation," she said. "The issue is to support music, theater and dance projects for youth, especially right now where there is an escalating climate of fear. The arts are a powerful venue for instilling self-esteem and self-worth and giving young people (and the community) a way to cast themselves in a positive light. The TCA legitimizes a performance in a way no other venue in town can … unfortunately rental costs at the TCA have escalated, and it is difficult to attract grant money (for productions) to rural areas where we don't have urban numbers which larger foundations require."

Thibodeau continued, "It is a delicate balance and everyone is doing their best … but we can do more. Theater takes a village, and that's what it's all about, bringing the village together."

Dougherty added, "Taos is ushering in an 'arts renaissance' and live theater needs to be a part of that movement … I hope this production helps usher in a new era at the TCA, one where the community associates that building with what's possible on that stage. It's a wonderful place to catch a movie, for sure. But it's an even better place to stare at a giant desk."

Reidy said a flood of support has come from the community for this production on a scale as large as the desk on stage.

Ace and Randall Hardware donated materials. Metta Theatre donated rehearsal space. Odenbear Theatre, Taos Onstage and Teatro Serpiente gave time, materials and support. Bruce Williams designed the desk, and Scott Evans carried out the plan. Maurice Palinski designed the costumes and Mikala Martínez and Carol Kalom stepped up to the plate as the artistic producers. Reidy said Rita O'Connell, her assistant director, "provided guidance and insight to me as a new director, and there are a handful of Taos musicians … who wrote and produced the music for the show."

Tickets are $12, $10 for Taos Center for the Arts members and $5 for youth 17 and under. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling (575) 758-2052.

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