This week I attended the 50th performance of the Indy Actors' Playground. This little gem of an event is held on the third Monday of every month at Indy Reads Books. Fantastic Indianapolis actors get to pick a play and do a live reading. The only requirement is that it is a professional play that has already been produced (not a new work) and that it hasn’t been produced in Indianapolis any time recently (and isn’t in an upcoming season).
This gives actors the chance to select shows they’ve always wanted to do. The play isn't announced until the show begins. People attending don’t know what they are about to see. This means that the actors don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s an easy production to market.
There are no sets, no costumes, and no elaborate lighting effects. It’s just a simple stage with folding chairs. The actors sit a few feet away from the audience members and read directly from the scripts. The amazing thing is that with excellent actors and scripts, all that other stuff is just window dressing.
The masterminds behind this passion project, Paul Hansen and the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Lou Harry, decided to offer a special twist to the 50th performance. They chose the play and even the actors didn’t know what they were about to read. Each one opened an envelope once they were seated on stage and got their first glimpse at their character. They were watching the plot unfold along with the audience as they acted out their part.
This week’s play was “Elemeno Pea” by Molly Smith Metzler. I can honestly say that before Monday night, I’d never heard of it, but it was a beautiful choice. I didn’t catch the name of every actor, but a few of my favorites from other shows were there and so I already knew their names. Georgeanna Smith, Devan Mathias, and Carrie Schlatter slide so seamlessly into their characters that I could have sworn they’d been rehearsing for weeks. The credit for that goes equally to Paul Hansen for casting the show and to the actors, who were able to give such depth to characters they’d just met.
For more information about the Indy Actors' Playground or to learn about upcoming events visit their Facebook page here.