The grass-roots exhilaration of the 2015 On the Verge Summer Repertory theater festival returns to Santa Barbara post-Fiesta with an edgy season of new plays that celebrate the fringe experience. This year’s lineup offers three full productions and a staged reading, all of which are world or Central Coast premieres: These Walls by Olivia Khoshatefeh (directed by Kate Bergstrom), I’m Alive You Bastards and I Always Will Be by Roxie Perkins (directed by Kate Bergstrom), From White Plains by Michael Perlman (directed by Josiah Davis), and jason&julia by Jenny Rachel Weiner (directed by Jessica Ballonoff). These shows present strange and surreal circumstances of characters seeking intimacy and acceptance in a stark world.
On the Verge (OTV) is headed by Brown/Trinity directorial graduate student Kate Bergstrom and was conceptualized and built by a collective of area performers, designers, directors, and artisans. This community includes students, both onstage and behind the curtains, and young professional and semiprofessional theater artists from a variety of companies across town. On the Verge provides a space for dramatic exploration — the brasher, the better. Admission to the festival, which runs August 9-15 at the Community Arts Workshop, is $5. The four productions will run in rep throughout the week, so audiences will have an opportunity to see all four shows at an affordable price. Here’s a preview of the work:
In These Walls, Marcy (San Marcos High School theater teacher Riley Berris), a “touch” therapist who re-accustoms trauma survivors to the sensation of physical connection, finds herself infatuated with performance artist Raoul (Justin Stark), who has taken up residence in a glass box as part of an art museum installation. Their relationship is an exercise in boundaries and explores the true nature of intimacy and the effect of physical interactions.
From White Plains brings audiences the simultaneous high stakes and pettiness of Internet feuding. After Dennis Sullivan (Billy Hutto) wins an Academy Award for his film, a brutal portrayal of a gay teenager’s tortured high school years and subsequent suicide, he calls out high school bully Ethan Rice (Andy Cowell) in his acceptance speech. The conversation that follows, a series of web-cam apologies and self-righteous publicity video logs that go viral, raises difficult questions about victimization.
The staged reading of jason&julia is a whirlwind romance of damaged souls in a surreal script that presents the rush of heartbreak and young love in a sensory storm of poetry and snapshot scenes. Starring Terry Li and Josh Jenkins as Julia and Jason, respectively, jason&julia is a story of feeling lost and found — and experiencing all the terrifying emotions in between.
Finally, patrons of the 2015 OTV Festival were introduced to the boisterous work of playwright Roxie Perkins through Caylee’s First Big Show!!! and Sweet Child. This year, Perkins’s work will be presented again with the bleak and outlandish I’m Alive You Bastards and I Always Will Be, a not-quite coming-of-age story of two wild children who aren’t what they seem. Against a sparse desert landscape, the girls manifest deep trouble in the form of two lady motorcyclists, untamed and dangerous, who haunt the dusty roads looking for their missing dog.
A truly unique festival that presents the dramatic work of female and LGBTQ playwrights, the On the Verge Summer Repertory Festival returns with new plays, fresh interpretations, and the vibrant energy of Santa Barbara’s young theater community coming together to revel in the dramatic form.
On the Verge Festival runs in rep Tuesday-Monday, August 9-15, at the Community Arts Workshop (631 Garden St.). Tickets are $5 and are available at onthevergefest.org.