IP at Fringe Fest Weekend

INDEPENDENT PLAYERS will participate in the Elgin Fringe Festival for the fourth year this September where it will present a relatively famous one-act play from the 1960s—Tad Mosel’s IMPROMPTU. This play, conceived in the Pirandello mode, “brings a fresh approach to a timeless theme—what should be the proper ratio of truth vs. illusion in the balanced life?”

For those unfamiliar with Pirandello, he was an Italian dramatist, novelist, poet and short story writer whose greatest contributions were his plays. He was awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature for “his almost magical power to turn psychological analysis into good theatre.” His tragic farces are often seen as the forerunners of The Theatre of the Absurd. His most famous play is entitled Six Characters in Search of an Author, written and first performed in 1921!

In the three years it has participated in the EFF, IP has produced The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco, Calm Down Mother by Megan Terry and Interview by Jean Claude van Itallie. Written in 1950, 1965 and 1966 respectively, these three plays, to varying degrees, display elements of the Absurd; in fact, The Bald Soprano is considered by many critics as the first truly absurdist play! Both Calm Down Mother and Interview also exhibit the absurdism which these playwrights find present in everyday life. Impromptu, written in 1948 (while Mosel was attending Yale), predates the other three, but belongs among them as another example of the theatrical experimentation in which playwrights were engaged during the “postwar years.”

The following is a synopsis of this year’s presentation: Four actors sit on a darkened stage, awaiting the arrival of the stage manager who has called them all together. Lacking his authoritative presence, they are merely characters in search of a play to become part of, for their own personalities seem unformed and shallow next to the full-blooded figures they are used to playing. They are also “types,” and each of them has absorbed most of he/she is from what he/she pretends to be on the stage. As they wait, the stage lights come up—but still no one appears to tell them what they are to do. They know only that they are not to leave the stage until they have “acted out the play.” Suddenly becoming aware that there is an audience present, the actors decide to improvise, an idea which finds them slightly flustered. Ernest, the “leading man,” exercises the prerogative of star billing and assumes command. He plunges ahead, assigning roles to himself and his colleagues—Winifred, who always plays the “leading lady’s best friend”; Lora, the struggling ingénue; and Tony, the juvenile lead. The drama that unfolds is a mixture of truth, fantasy and well-rehearsed situations, but out of it, comes a deepening awareness of the real people behind the theatrical facades.

Impromptu features Blase Horn (of Chicago), Gabor Mark (of Barrington), Lori Rohr (of Palatine) and Dana Udelhoven (of Batavia), all of whom were seen in IP’s recent production of Tartuffe (both in Elgin and Crystal Lake). Blase, Lori and Dana are also veterans of previous EFF productions; This Dana’s fourth Fringe appearance, Lori’s third and Blase’s second. Artistic Director Don Haefliger is directing his fourth Fringe one-act play. “Theatrical literature is much more expansive than the shows we are able to present in our regular seasons.” Haefliger notes. “By offering actors the chance to do these shows—which are often quite edgy—we broaden the scope of their overall acting experience and we provide the audience with “glances” of the vast array of plays that they are unlikely to see performed by theatre companies anywhere. Chances are, most of those who attend these performances would not have a chance to see them (except, perhaps, at another fringe fest or Off-Off Broadway!!).” If it continues to be selected to be part of the Elgin Fringe Fest, IP plans to continue to explore more of these timeless classics in the years to come.

IP will perform Impromptu four times during the Fest: Thursday, September 13 at 9 pm, Friday, September 14 at 6 pm, Saturday, September 15 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, September 16 at 1:30 pm.

These performances will be presented at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division Street (8th floor of the Professional Building). Tickets are $5.00 and must be purchased at Fringe Central at Side Street Studio Arts, 15 Ziegler Court; all attendees must purchase an EFF button ($3.00) which allows them to attend any other performances as well. Fringe Fest weekend is one the most “happening weekends” of the year in Elgin. If you haven’t attended in the past, this is the time to do so for the first time!!