Boulder’s Local Theatre Co. kicks off new-play festival April 22

This spring’s Local Lab, presented by Boulder’s Local Theater Company, will feature readings of four new plays that explore some intriguing ideas that push the boundaries of live theatre. The festival opens April 22 and runs through the weekend, and I recently had a chance to catch up with Spring Lab’s co-directors, Nick Chase and Betty Hart, who added some detail about the event and the featured works.

Play readings don’t get the kind of attendance of fully produced shows, but they’re a ton of fun to go to. As Hart says: “Live readings are like reading a book — you can fully imagine it in your mind. The full production is like seeing a book turned into a film. This is a great opportunity to allow your imagination to go wild as the words wash over you.”

Chase adds that the scene itself is worth the trip to Boulder.

Betty Hart at last Fall’s Lab | Photo: Michael Ensminger

“There are a lot of awesome parties, and it’s a great opportunity to meet these great artists in Colorado,” he says.

And, of course, if and when the play goes onto a full production, Hart says you can say you were there at the start.

“You get to be in on the ground floor,” she says. “Imagine if you saw Hamilton in its first iteration. Where it began is not where it ended, and the audience plays a crucial role in that development.”

The plays

All readings take place at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder. The first mainstage reading is You Enjoy Myself by Topher Payne. This one is directed by Hart, who says she’s known the playwright for a long time. The action centers around the jam-band Phish.

“The two primary characters are longtime devotees of the band,” Chase says. “It’ll appeal to people love Phish, but also to those who have a devotion to an idea.”

The comedy finds the two characters at a time in their lives where they’re no longer participants in the Phish scene but wind up getting back into it.

“It’s about love lost and love rediscovered,” Chase says. “Topher has a great sense of comic timing.”

The reading of You Enjoy Myself is at 7 p.m. April 22.

The action picks up again at 2 p.m. Saturday with The Lotus. Hart says this is a first-time collaboration with the CU-Boulder theatre department, with the work chosen from student submissions. Playwright Esther Omegba won the chance to have her play presented at the festival.

“She gets to work alongside professional actors, a dramaturge, director — all of that,” Harts says. “It’s a wonderful play about young people dealing with some adverse situations with family as well as questions about technology and the ethics involving the computer industry. Some amazing things happen in this piece.”

The Lotus is directed by Lisa Marie Rollins.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, it’s Goodnight Cowboy, created and performed by female impersonator Jody Kuchner — aka Cherdonna Shinatra. This is the one where Goodnight Moon meets the spaghetti Western, and since I’ve read the children’s book a thousand times and seen The Good, The Bad and The Ugly more than a few times, I’m looking forward to this one.

“The character is a hyperbolized female with childlike tendencies,” Chase says. “It’s very unique and personal.”

The action picks back up Sunday at 2 p.m. with the final reading, Affinity Lunch Minutes by Nick Malakhow and directed by Sabin Epstein. Chase says this one takes place at a Quaker high school on the East Coast and involves two teachers dealing with a student who’s made an accusation. The female teacher is black and the male teacher is biracial.

“It’s about the tensions that arise about the allegiance the school has and how it is in practice, as well as the tension and experiences the teachers go through between those two poles,” Chase says.

“We’re very excited about showcasing these new American plays in Colorado,” Hart says. “We have a tremendous group of writers at the top of their game, plus an early-career writer.”

Local Theater Co. artistic director Pesha Rudnick at a previous Lab | Photo: Michael Ensminger

Parties and workshops

Alongside the readings are other events going on throughout the weekend, including:

Festival kickoff party at the home of Local Theater Company Board Chair, Jane Butcher
595 Aurora Ave, Boulder CO 80302 — 4:30-6 p.m.

Late Night Lab Party at Deviant Spirits from 8 p.m.-close

CO-LAB Sunday Noon-1:30 p.m. — a creative workshop helmed by Chase, Hart and Local Theater Co. artistic director Pesha Rudnick. Hart says it’s aimed at those who don’t consider themselves theatre-makers but who want to get an idea of what the process is all about.