The Bloomington Playwrights Project’s 2009 Ballot Box Blizzard offers thirty plays by twenty-four playwrights in just a little over two hours. Directors Jim Hettmer, Jack Johnson and April Smallwood each fielded teams of actors to handle their share of the evening. In fitting with IU and Bloomington’s Arts Week the theme, broadly interpreted, is politics. The audience gets to vote on their favorites and during the two brief intermissions there are energetic conversations as the electorate conference over their decisions and mark their ballots.
On opening night in the first third, I was especially taken by the urinal insights of Kaylee Spivee’s “Man Law” as brother Brett Gloden explained the rigid dos and don’ts to brother Gabe. Mark Harvey Levine’s “The Candidate” went over and past the top as front man Philip Addison had to keep a waiting crowd of supporters at bay by interpreting progressively bad news from aid. Derrick Krober. “The Conquest of Guernica” by Evan Guilford-Blake with Francine Morrison, Mark Ginski and Lucy Danser lent a soberingly dark psychological accent to the mostly comic set. During the intermission my theatre partner and I conferred and at least made a stab at marking our ballots.
Act two began with Tammy Dennis-Good’s “Enlightenment” as three candidates for high school class president, Kelsey Sheppard, Brad Good and Bill Goveia, squared off in a crookedly complex and violence marked card game. In “Modern Dating” by Alex Straiker, the internet was the stage as Lucy Danser and Derrick Krober each used their computers to inflate their images so much that Danser dropped out, but their computers kept the connection. Torture or torturous thoughts were the focus of Terri Klingelhoefer’s “Home of the Brave” with mother Kylee Spivey trying to console an inconsolably wounded daughter Erin Sullivan. The act’s finale was a take off from Shakespeare’s Scottish play, “The Tragedy of McCain” by Greg Ellis. Ellis appeared as a credible Shakespeare spouting McCain remonstrating with the witch played by Josie Gingrich. Sans wig, Gingrich was almost credible as his winking running mate Sarah Palin. It was a very language rich piece that went by just too quickly. I hope it gets into print somewhere.
After another huddle with my theatre partner over our votes the third act began with Josie Gingrich as a near hysterical stay-at-home mom in Angeline Larimer’s “Home Schooled.” It’s a piece that the more you know, the funnier and the more touching it becomes. Brad Good’s “Stereotypical” with Brad Good, Kaylee Spivey and Reggie Provine was a neatly staged little ballet as the characters one after another demolished stereotypes of prejudice. The act and the show ended with Gabe Gloden and Erin Sullivan in a TV style wrestling match complete with holds, throws, hair pulling and the obligatory sneak attack with a metal folding chair in Rachel Himsel’s “The Takeover.” After they’d fought to a sweaty draw, they decided that being on the top or the bottom was less important than being side by side.
As we left the theatre, I did stuff the ballot box a little, but I kept my ballot in my pocket. There were too many good choices for me to settle on just four. The Bloomington Playwrights Project’s Ballot Box Blizzard plays at eight tonight and Saturday and Sunday at two, with additional evening performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday the 26th, 27th and 28th.
Hear George’s interview with co director Holly Holbrook and writer/director April Smallwood.