MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And today, we're talking about conserving and preserving, be it art or the environment or your money as you zoom around those toll roads this summer. But there's something else many of us seek to preserve, something a little more personal.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And, in fact, in a city like Washington, you often find people fighting tooth and nail to hold onto it. Power, status, authority, clout, whatever you want to call it, it can be the currency of certain circles in this town. But as we're about to hear, you don't necessarily have to be a politician or a lobbyist or a CEO to feel the drive to maintain it. Now, in the world we're about to enter, you could actually be a word.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1
Do you know how big of a deal this is? This is us losing the title of Keyword. Being a keyword meant more to me than having multiple definitions or a date to be traced back to. Everyone knows the rewards. It's not about the women or the free drinks at Romeo and Juleps or even being better than every other word.
And this here is a rather distinctive word and one of the main characters in "PUN: (n) A Play On Words," part of the 2011 Capitol Fringe Festival. As you heard, he's one of the cream of the crop keywords, the veritable superstars who appear at the top of their respective dictionary pages.
Sure. Since I'm the longest word in the English dictionary, people will look me up and they'll get their kicks and giggle here and there at a big word. But they won't look at me. Being up there at the top, everyone knew that wherever floccinaucinihilipilification was, flocc- or even flood wouldn't be far behind. You can't replace that feeling.
But soon after the play starts...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2
Is it getting colder in here? What is happening to the lights?
The keywords receive an eerie prophecy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 3
Beware the tides of change.
The dictionary is getting a new word.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 4
(unintelligible) is wrong.
A new word comes to usurp your throne.
Throne? Like, our throne? Usurp, like our keyword status.
As harvest moon shines with orange, your opportunity is off its door hinge.
Did you just ruin the word orange? I did not think that was possible.
To find out what happens next, well, you'll just have to check out the show, which as it happens, is the premier production of Blacktop Theatre Company.
MR. ANDREW HAWKINS
When I think of blacktop, I think of recess and just running out to play, anything goes.
Andrew Hawkins started Blacktop last year with some of his fellow recent George Mason grads.
And so it allows for us to be innovative theatre makers, to try new ideas and to create boundaries and then erase them and try something different.
Much like the chalk drawings you might've scribbled and erased on the blacktop when you were a kid. Now, while "PUN" is Blacktop's first full-scale endeavor, the company started playing around this past spring with "21 Days To Play," a project where members gave themselves three weeks to create a play. Hawkins did the writing, Blacktop member Christy Denny did the directing.
MS. CHRISTY DENNY
So it's Andrew, me, a bunch of actors and we just kind were like, well, let's see what comes out of it. And, you know, maybe it ends up being a full reading, maybe we will just do excerpts, but, you know, like, let's find what fits the project at hand rather than us dictating this is what it must be.
In the end incidentally, they did a staged reading and hoped to make "21 Days" an annual event. But Denny says she loves the idea of being so fluid and flexible as a company. Do you ever see somewhere down the line having kind of a season, four or five shows for the year?
Maybe and maybe it's four or five productions, maybe it's one or two productions and various workshoppie event things.
But whatever they decide...
MR. AARON FISHER
We definitely want to be a local based theatre company.
That's Aaron Fisher, a Blacktop co-founder and the playwright of "PUN."
You know, like, not pulling people from New York or pulling people from everywhere else to act or direct or design here. There's a thriving artistic community in D.C. and it's nice to bring that to the forefront.
And Blacktop is off to a nice start in that regard. In June, it held the 1st Annual Blacktop Theatre Company Spelling Bee, a fundraiser where D.C. based actors went head-to-head in a spelling smackdown. Five audience members won slots on the stage too, including, in the interest of full disclosure, me, who would've have won, by the way, had I not been defeated by a certain gi-normous keyword.
That was good. That was good.
But, hey, can you blame me?
Floccinaucinihilipilification -- I can't even say it. You said it better than me the first time.
Anyway, the 1st Annual Spelling Bee, "21 Days To Play," "PUN," these are all prime examples of that anything-goes spirit Andrew Hawkins talks about.
Swing the bat, as Christy Denny says, and try new things and succeed and fail and just have fun.
And the Blacktop crew hopes to keep having fun for a long time to come because with these guys, all the world's a playground and that end of recess bell isn't ringing any time soon. "PUN: (n) A Play On Words" has one more performance this Sunday. You can check out our website, metrconnection.org, for information on that and for more on the world of Blacktop Theatre Company.
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