The task of the area writers behind the ten plays that make up Face Down in a Pool of Your Own Monkeys was to say whatever they wanted -- but get to the point in 600 seconds or less.
Dean Bevan contributes both his writing and acting talent to this weekend's festival. He penned and stars in If Gold Rusts, which he describes as a satiric swipe at political campaigns. "People on the left or right will rejoice and feel that this play has validated their position," he says of its nonpartisan stance. "But it's really a pox on both your houses."
Bevan, who taught creative writing at Baker University for 30 years, explains that the title of his piece is taken from the prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. "The idea is that our leaders, who ought to be gold, seem to be rusting," he explains. "So what do the rest of us do?"
Andy Stowers, cofounder of the 6-year-old theater company, wrote Tribe. "It's one of the more experimental pieces in the show," he says. "It's written in a disjointed style.... The two characters are sometimes speaking to each other and other times doing monologues." Stowers adds that it's purposely devoid of stage directions, giving director Amber McIntosh free rein.
Although this year's festival is a return to the format of E.M.U. Theatre's 2002 offering, a 10-minute festival called Back to the Egg, Stowers is unapologetic. "E.M.U.'s focus is on original works, and our bottom line is to do good art -- and then do it again," he says.
The company has made some changes, however. This year's rules weren't as ironclad as 2 years ago, when it was suggested that the playwrights "avoid G.G. Allin shenanigans," a reference to the late punk rocker known for defecating onstage, then consuming his own feces or tossing it on the audience. The caveat proved inspirational for one writer, who penned a play spoofing the rules.
With Face Down in a Pool of Your Own Monkeys ("This is the year of the monkey," Stowers explains of the title's origin), the company managed to avoid a similar response. "This year, we only said we didn't want long set changes," he says. "It has to be moved on and off in 2 or 3 minutes."
Stowers' press release about the plays offers some provocative descriptions: Claven Snow's The Painted Forest is "a surrealistic account of a priest suffering a loss of faith after his life partner is unfaithful"; a spoken-word piece by Julie Unruh is about "living with a monster"; and Pam Grout's Got Milk? addresses "America's war on the children of Iraq."
Audience members can't help but find something likable among the ten plays, Bevan says. "Anybody might not like the second or the ninth, but you can hang on for 10 minutes and look forward to the next one." That's not quite instant gratification, but it's close enough.