"Devised theater" is the popular theatrical method of creating performances collaboratively as an ensemble, rather than from an already existing script. The approach has garnered a healthy audience in the last several years; for proof, look no further than the Austin-based collective Rude Mechanicals, whose work recently attracted the attention of the National Endowment for the Arts. Rude Mechanicals, or Rude Mechs, were awarded one of five inaugural grants given out by the National Endowment for the Arts this year for the New Play Development Program. It's quite an honor for an up-and-coming theater ensemble, and it shows that even the federal government is taking notice when it comes to devised and collaborative contemporary performance.
For TBA 2011, Rude Mechs bring us The Method Gun, one of the company's first productions to acquire philanthropic support and critical acclaim. Word has it that the piece is funny, wildly experimental, and pitch perfect in its sentimentality.
The premise is this: In the '60s, a (fictional) guru named Stella Burden developed what she called "The Approach," a method of acting that fused Western technique with ritualistic practices. Rude Mechs' performance is essentially a reenactment of the last rehearsals that Burden's company underwent as they prepared to perform an adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire—an adaptation they had been working on for nine years. The Method Gun is partially based on "found text" from performance journals from Burden's Streetcar rehearsals, but also ebbs into a world of autobiographical analysis, where the theatrical "method" that Rude Mechs employs is simultaneously inspected.
Granted, this does sound a bit heady, but rest assured that levity is promised amid the introspection. Much like Portland's Hand2Mouth Theatre (whose audiences will most likely delight in The Method Gun), Rude Mechanicals are keenly aware that when it comes to experimental performance that errs on the side of the meta-theatrical, a little humor can go a long way.
Rude Mechs' The Method Gun
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th, Fri Sept 9-Sun Sept 11, 8:30 pm, Mon Sept 12-Tues Sept 13, 6:30 pm, $20-25