English Alternative Theatre will showcase some original student scripts and an American classic this school year.
When Paul Lim, founder of English Alternative Theatre, is choosing scripts for the company's season, he has one goal in mind: to pick plays that remain with audience members after the curtain drops.
"I like to do theater that agitates people," Lim, an associate professor of English at Kansas University, said.
That means making audience members question their beliefs and evoking strong emotions, whether it be hysterical laughter or anger.
EAT's 1999-2000 season opens at 8 p.m. Sept. 6 with "Parodies Lost," a staged reading of six short parodies of Euripides, Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams by Christopher Durang, Eric Bogosian and William Finn. The production will spoof such theatrical classics as "Medea," "The Glass Menagerie," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Iceman Cometh" and "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Lim will try to involve as many English faculty, teaching assistants and graduate students in the staged reading as possible. The 30-member cast will have only four rehearsals before it takes the stage. There is no admission charge.
"We're going to have fun doing it and hope others will enjoy it," he said.
Next on EAT's lineup is a double-bill of short plays by two KU students that will be co-produced with Card Table Theatre, an independent Lawrence theater company that is starting its second season.
The plays -- "Croquet" by Sam Osterhout, and "Writing Love Songs for Holly" by Chris Nelson -- were written for Lim's play-writing class.
Lim said the co-production came about after Card Table co-founders Jeremy Auman and Will Averill asked him if he knew of any plays that might fit their interests.
"The two plays are simple and thematically linked -- they're both in restaurant-bar environs," he said.
"Croquet," which will be directed by Auman, deals with gender and class issues. Its plot follows three men who hang out together in a restaurant-grill. The day before, one of the men has stolen some money from the cash register and they are deciding what to do with it: Divide the money or return it?
"Old prejudices about class and gender surface and it ends in a shocking manner," Lim said. "If we do it right, Sam's ending will be a first in American theater."
Averill will direct "Love Songs," a comedy about a group of intelligent college-age men who hang out together in a bar-grill and are enamored with the same waitress.
"They flirt with her and in the process we learn about girl problems each of them have," Lim said. "It's a commentary on the relationships among twentysomethings."
Lim will serve as dramaturg for the plays, which will be staged at 8 p.m. Oct. 7-9 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 200 W. Ninth.
Two weeks later, EAT will again stage a double-bill of short plays by two other KU students -- "The McCarthy Project" by Charli Engelhorn and "Bereft" by Nick Woods. Show times are 8 p.m. Oct. 21-23 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 N.H.
The play tells the story of two educators who are nostalgic for the America that existed at the turn of the century, before women, minorities, the handicapped, gays and lesbians came into their own. The men come up with the idea to implant computer chips into those unlike themselves to dictate how they behave.
"Bereft," which was written in 1998, is about two men who are prison cell mates and have been imprisoned for hate crimes. One prisoner has been there for 10 years and is being released the following day. The warden enters and upsets both of them.
"Something shocking happens in the cell and the prisoners have to deal with issues of violence and sexuality," he said.
EAT's annual "Final Four" competition will give students not interested or tired of KU basketball something else to do. At 8 p.m. March 10-12, student-written plays from Lim's and Dan Kulmala's play-writing classes will be pitted against each other.
The audience will vote on the best play each night. The "Final Four" will be presented in Room 100 in Smith Hall.
EAT will wind up its season with a co-production of "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry, with the Lawrence Community Theatre.
The play will be staged at 7:30 p.m. April 13-16, 18-23 and 26-30 at LCT.
"I've been here since 1968 and it's not been done since then," Lim said. "It's time we did it. There's a whole new generation who hasn't seen this play. It's an American classic that needs to be seen, and frequently."
"A Raisin in the Sun" is about a black Chicago family's attempt to find sense in their constrained lives. Lim said two versions of the play are available: the 1950s Broadway original, which was heavily edited because the play was too long, or a script with the edited scenes reinstated.
"It's over three hours long so my instinct is to go with the shorter version," he said.
Anyone who wants to audition for an EAT play or volunteer to work on its crews can call Lim at 864-3642.
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
English Alternative Theatre's 1999-2000 season will offer everything from parodies to serious dramas to student-written plays: