This past Sunday I found myself portraying Frank Hardy in a short play called The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From. I had never heard of this play until about an hour before I was on stage, and during performance I and the three other actors had to read from scripts. We had no sets, virtually no props, and had not rehearsed in any meaningful way. It was loads of fun.
Play|Date is a new project from the Misfit Academy and is hosted by The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, a small venue in Portland’s SE Industrial District, and it can best be thought of as dramatic karaoke. Participants have a list of short plays they can choose from, put in their names and, just like at a karaoke they’re called up to the stage to read through the scene with other performers.
Unlike other art events, it’s participatory. Portland has no shortage of plays, concerts, comedy shows, gallery openings, or the like, but there are far fewer arts events that encourage the general public to make art or actually flex their artistic muscles. They do exist, but not in numbers. Play|Date offers depth to the Portland art scene by expanding the field of who can do art and be a performer. It’s a catalyst for creation. I know that sounds sort of hokey, but it’s true.
Just like how karaoke isn’t a concert, Play|Date isn’t an actual performance. However, there’s a certain pleasure to seeing average people sing at karaoke, and there’s also a specific enjoyment that one can get from seeing unrehearsed nonactors read through a scene. You’re watching other humans, just like you, spontaneously attempt to make art. Having an active, vibrant, and interesting art scene in this town can mean more than just having a lot of good performance spaces. It also can mean that this is a place where people (you, me, everyone) can actually go places and attempt, just a little, to create.