I've acted (OVEREXPOSED and ONE EXTRAORDINARY DARKENESS) and written (EXHIBIT) for Onsite Theatre Company, the site-specific specialists in town. So, I was very pleased when asked to direct their next show, a revival of their first show, BOWLING EPIPHANY. (I had been one of the few people to see that first show. Primarily because it was taking place at Epiphany Lanes, an old 8-lane alley next to a Catholic Church gym. I was intrigued at the site-specific approach, but also intrigued because I went to grade school there, and spent many hours playing pinball in the bowling alley after I'd been shooting baskets in the gym.)
I introduced myself to the OnSite folks that night, and went on to work with them in the various capacities.
Now I was directing. I was handed the cast, and was handed a good one. Elizabeth Birkenmeier (who wrote ONE EXTRAORDINARY DARKNESS), Donna Weinsting (who I'd never worked with though both of us have been around – not forever – but a while), and Antonio Rodriguez, a very talented young actor who'd been working steadily in town (and had caught the eye of Judy Newmark of the Post who featured him in an article).
And all three were perfect for the three roles they'd play – one in each of the short, bowling-themed plays.
I had a pretty clear vision of how this should work. Focus on theatre first; audience comes in, gets bowling shows, gets a beer. Watches a play. At end of play, lanes come alive and audience bowls. Repeat. Repeat.
It was kept simple and that's what worked. After toying with specific music cues and such, then realizing I only had a bowling alley CD player to work with, I used music that was playing when I was playing there – rock ‘n roll of the sixties – the music that brought me into puberty. And played it loud. Bowling alley music.
That was our first good review. People praised the music before the show started. And moved to it throughout the evening.
The plays were simple and direct. The actors used a variety of costumes (all with bowling shoes) that supported the scripts, and performed the heck out of them.
Audiences were drawn like magnets to the bowling; we had large, loud, enthusiastic (for the shows and the bowling) crowds every night.
And playwright Carter Lewis, fresh from recovering from complicated surgeries, was able to make the final weekend and seemed delighted by the evening.
In the midst of the deadly hot, politically and socially complicated summer of 2012,
Epiphany Lanes seemed like just about the coolest place to be in town.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI rode on the wings of the extraordinary classless appeal of bowling. Our show caught a little of that grace.