Akron’s Boiling Point, where the play’s the thing

Arts / Article

Akron area actors, would-be actors, and play lovers have a good thing going. Wandering Aesthetics, a small but highly active theater company, has a play-reading series called Akron’s Boiling Point. Anyone interested – in either participating by reading a role or two, or simply listening to some exciting and contemporary plays – can come and join in the fun.

During a recent sit-down interview with Kyle Jozsa (who, along with Benjamin Rexroad and Nici Romo, leads the group), Jozsa said that the group’s has averaged between 12-25 audience members and participants over the course of the eight plays that they have read since May. Ages range from teenagers and up.

The group meets once a month, always on a Tuesday at 8 p.m., Jozsa said, at the Balch Street Theatre. CATAC (or the Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture) is willing to share its space with Wandering Aesthetics.

The structure for events is pretty loose, and often made up on the spot by Romo. Generally, Jozsa noted, role names are put into a hat and participants draw out a name. If it is a male name and the drawer is female, she can request to try again, but that sort of gender assignment isn’t necessary to read out the piece as written.

Romo often creates some theme to go along with the reading – sometimes through food, sometimes through movement. Once, Jozsa said, the action of the play shifted from room to room, so readers all got up and physically moved – all to get a sense of action rather than simply reading.

Jozsa commented that the structure is a reading of the play, followed by a short “break,” after which the participants discuss aspects of the play – either characterization, some theme that emerged, or how it might be staged, as some examples.

The overall idea for Wandering Aesthetics is to bring plays that have never, or have rarely, been performed in the Akron area. Participants get exposure to new plays this way and perhaps, as Jozsa noted, some interest in a full-scale production may come out of the reading and discussion. In fact, Jozsa said there is a possibility that one of the plays already done – “Preservation,” which was written by the musical group The Kinks – may be put on in the next year or two.

Wandering Aesthetics, “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge,” poster. Photo via www.facebook.com/WanderingAesthetics

For the reading on Tuesday, December 16, at 8 p.m. in the Balch Street Theatre, the play is Charles Durang’s “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Christmas Binge.” The season-appropriate play is a take on “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Written in 2002, the play has 20-some characters, including the familiar ghosts of Christmas past, present, and to come, along with Tiny Tim and young and older Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley.

The premise for Durang’s spin is that the Ghost messes up repeatedly, with the result that Scrooge and the Ghost keep appearing at the Cratchit’s house, where Mrs. Bob Cratchit (a long-suffering saint in the Dickens version) is grouchy, at her wit’s end, and wanting to get severely drunk. Now that sounds funny.

To add to the festivity of the event, Jozsa said that they are planning a white elephant gift exchange. That should certainly lighten things up. If you haven’t ever done that, it can be a lot of fun – and you might get a great gift out of it.

If that play doesn’t appeal to your sense of drama, Wandering Aesthetics will be having a new one every month. Jozsa noted that the group wants to hear different contemporary voices. Four of the eight plays so far discussed were written by female playwrights; three were penned by gay men; two by people of color; and four playwrights hailed from outside the United States. The spectrum is broad; the interest high for quality plays.

Interestingly, this active group has bigger plans. The play reading series will continue, but the leaders of the organization would like to create what Jozsa called a stage reading series, whereby they would get a local director to work on a stage with those interested – blocking scenes and providing insight into the production – as a next step in letting those interested see how living theater works.

Wandering Aesthetics’ participant-driven reading of Charles Durang’s “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” will be held at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 16, in the Balch Street Theatre, 220 S. Balch St., Akron; 330-910-5138; www.facebook.com/WanderingAesthetics. Participation and admission are free.