English Alternative Theatre will stage some thought-provoking plays in the coming months.
For the past several years, English Alternative Theatre has lived the life of a gypsy. The theater company has no home venue so its casts and crews must perform wherever they can find the space.
But sometimes even gypsies get tired of roaming.
``We're scaling back EAT so we can do two full productions, both are original student scripts,'' said Paul Lim, founder of EAT and associate professor of English at Kansas University. ``We normally do two or three full productions and three or four staged readings. But it gets harder and harder because we have no home. ... And people come and go who work for EAT. They go on with their lives.
``I hope to continue to do original student scripts and strange and interesting plays.''
One of EAT's goals has remained the same throughout the years.
``We want to help discover new voices in American theater. It's my dream to help develop a young playwright in our midst who will go on to write more plays in the theater,'' he said. ``We can't go on forever doing Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Our times need to be addressed.
``EAT continues to do the odd play that's not commercial and has a viewpoint that needs to be shared with the community at large.''
Lim said the plays that EAT typically ends up performing are scripts recommended by the KU English department faculty. Feedback from students who are required to attend performances as part of their class work has been positive.
``They say they are grateful to be exposed to live theater,'' he said. ``Not many of them consider live theater a viable form of entertainment. ... My hope is that we're training new writers but also training new audiences for the theater.''
Although EAT's new season is pared back a little, it certainly hasn't weakened the material it will present to audiences. The season opens at 8 p.m. Sept. 11 with a staged reading of ``Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde,'' by Moises Kaufman. The reading, directed by Lim, will be held in Swarthout Recital Hall in Murphy Hall.
Wilde, a playwright and poet whose works include ``The Importance of Being Earnest,'' is in vogue right now. At least three new plays and one movie are based on his life.
``I don't know why there's a resurgence of interest,'' Lim said.
The play is based on existing documents -- Wilde's poetry, short stories and autobiography, court transcripts and biographies.
``It gives a good history of what happens to Wilde through the trials,'' he said.
Wilde filed a libel suit against the Marquis of Queensbury, who called the playwright a sodomite after he discovered that Wilde and his son, Lord Alfred ``Bosie'' Douglas, were having an affair. The suit backfired. Wilde ended up undergoing two trials on sodomy and was sentenced to two years in prison.
``It was the most notorious case of his day,'' Lim said. ``He was the first one to be brought down legally as a homosexual.''
The play has a cast of 12 men, who have already been selected from the English faculty and community residents.
``Victim Art,'' an original script by KU student Laura Graham, will be presented at 8 p.m. Oct. 15-17 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 18 in Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 N.H. The play, also directed by Lim, will be this year's entry into the American College Theatre Festival.
Graham came to KU to study with Lim and wrote the play as part of her work in one of his playwriting classes.
``She's among the brightest playwriting students I've had,'' Lim said.
``Victim Art'' is about a young woman who discovers she is an artist and how everything in her life -- both joyful and painful -- can contribute to her art.
See EAT, page 18F
``It's mostly autobiographical, about an incident in (Graham's) life where she might possibly have breast cancer and how she turned that experience into her art,'' Lim said.
The play has a cast of three women and two men, with four actors playing a variety of roles.
March will see the return of EAT's popular ``Final Four'' staged readings. ``The Final Four'' presents student plays in a friendly competition. Each night's audience selects its favorite play, which advances to the final round.
The readings will take place at 8 p.m. March 13-15 in room 100, Smith Hall.
The scripts will be selected from 30 to 40 plays written by students in Lim's beginning playwriting classes.
``We've been doing this for six years now,'' Lim said. `` ... It's something we can do quickly and well.''
The EAT season will wind up with ``April in Akron,'' an original script by KU student Dan Kumala. The play, also directed by Lim, will be performed at 8 p.m. May 6-8 and 2:30 p.m. May 9 at Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 N.H.
The play will be EAT's ACTF entry during the 1999-2000 season.
``Dan wrote the play on his own and worked with me informally for a year,'' Lim said. ``The material of the play continues to grow on me. That's one of the criterion of getting the play produced and going to ACTF.''
The play is about a group of young men who profess they love various women in their lives, but the reality is they fear or maybe hate those women.
``The message is very feminist and examines why men behave toward women the way they do and how they've learned the rhetoric and are passing as acceptable,'' Lim said.
The play leaves the audience with questions.
``For me, the best kinds of drama are those that leave room for discussion,'' he said. ``A drama that supplies answers is like television.''
Want to get involved?
Volunteers are always welcome at EAT. People are needed to build and paint sets and serve as stage managers.
Those interested can call Lim at 864-3642.
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.