The Southern dinner table is rich in flavor and variety and right now is high season for winter feasting. In mid-January, a local arts institution offers up a new smorgasbord of its own.
Mobile Theatre Guild’s inaugural Festival of One-Act Plays offers patrons three days’ worth of comic and dramatic fare, varying the menu from night to night, with recipes written and prepared by an assortment of hands. It’s meant as an introduction on all fronts.
“I think the idea came from Chris Hill and [MTG board member] Barney Marchman sitting around together in casual conversation,” Tania Paredes Radoslovich said. A veteran of Mobile stage, she is one of seven fledgling directors stepping into thin air with the effort running from Jan. 9 until Jan. 18 at 14 N. Lafayette St.
According to Radoslovich, Hill and Marchman’s aim was to invigorate the theatrical scene. Seven short stageplays by authors from Edward Albee to Anton Chekhov were circled for focus and MTG opened the doors.
“They deadlined it, gave a date you could put a proposal in by,” Radoslovich said. “They had a committee that said ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and that’s how we did this.”
The masterminds made available the draw of plays and allowed each director their own process for filling out the cast. Some held auditions while others hand picked, as Radoslovich did from castmates in another production.
Her background in Mobile theatre and as a drama major at the University of South Alabama — “I’ve been on stage locally since I was about six and have been in probably close to 50 things” — also paid off in finding the six actors who make up the three couples in her work, an abridged “Almost, Maine” by John Cariani.
“It is about a fictional New England town and the aurora borealis is just low enough where people in Maine can see it,” Radoslovich said. “It is kind of making everyone lose their mind in a romantic, quirky kind of way. It’s about falling in and out of love.”
A New York Times review of the original play described it as “amiably absurdist vignettes about love, with a touch of good-natured magic realism.” It was widely acclaimed as one of the best new plays of 2006.
Radoslovich’s piece anchors the Friday slate. Leading off the night will be “Boise, Idaho” by Sean Michael Welch, helmed by Corey Wornell. Following that is a Susan Vinson-directed version of “Habit” by John Patrick, each of those running about 30 minutes, while Radoslovich’s closer is 45 minutes long.
Efficiency is utmost. Minimalist approach prevails.
“Everybody has got their own backdrop so mine will fly down when it’s time,” Radoslovich said. “We’ll throw in a chair here or a table there to kind of add in what’s going on, but in the background will be a kind of a snow globe effect.”
Even more daunting than physical changes will be the mental and emotional shifts. Some of the actors are pulling multiple duties that evening.
“We’ve got Christopher Spencer, Victoria Johnson, Kim McKenzie, Rick Miller, Corey Wornell and Mark Nager in mine,” Radoslovich said. “Christopher and Mark are in the first play so at least with another work between them, they have Susan’s play to kind of recover emotionally and regroup.”
The Saturday shows are Albee’s “The Zoo Story”, directed by Brendon Cook and Jonathan Rand’s “Check, Please,” led by Jamie Boykin. Sunday features Alan Ball’s “Power Lunch,” directed by Lars Tatom and Chekhov’s “The Marriage Proposal,” helmed by Joe Fuselli.
“If you get the package you can come Friday one weekend, then come see Saturday and Sunday the next weekend,” Radoslovich said. “They’re letting people split it.”
Three-performance packages are $30, or $20 for students, seniors and military. Single day tickets are $15, or $10 for students, seniors and military.
Showtimes are 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. for Sunday matinees.
“I think people are going to be pleased when they come see it, it’s such a variety up there,” Radoslovich said. “You’re never going to see the same thing twice.”
The novice director believes the festival’s aim of expanding and strengthening Mobile’s theatre community across generations has paid dividends. It’s been obvious.
“Though it’s been chaotic with seven people trying to share the theater, everybody’s working really nicely together. Nobody’s pulling rank. Everybody’s cooperating,” Radoslovich said. “Everybody’s meshing really, really well though half of us don’t know each other.”
It’s also reached out beyond the confines of Mobile Theatre Guild as physical limitations came into play.
“Other theaters have been very generous in donating facilities because seven plays can’t get in a rehearsal space at the same time,” Radoslovich said. “Sunnyside Theater, Joe Jefferson and the University of South Alabama let us use space. They’ve all been very kind with their time and generosity of space, donating props, just being very helpful. It’s been a true community theater experience.”