World Premiere plays are fascinating. Whether you’re an actor, director or designer, there’s something magical about being surrounded by a playwright’s words, knowing that you’re the first to bring those words to life. For the audience, there’s a shared understanding that “we’re a part of something new.” No one can really say where a world premiere will go after that first run: sometimes the script winds up on Broadway, sometimes it winds up on the floor of the playwright’s closet.
So when one approaches a world premiere, it’s the equivalent of an artist approaching a blank canvas with a 10 color palette. There are so many choices, so many things that the artist can do! Only, that’s not really true. The artist only has 10 colors, after all.
This is where LiveArt comes in, Instead of being handed a world premiere script by a playwright, the LiveArt ensemble has written the script collectively and collaboratively for the ensemble. Instead of using someone else’s words to create real, believable characters, each character is created by the ensemble. Three years in the making, I <3 Hummels is, without a doubt, the most ensemble-driven and process-focused play at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival.
You don’t think a play just happens, do you? I <3 Hummels’s genesis started with a single idea: a man who likes Hummels but is socially awkward. After pulling together an all-star cast (Rebecca Herron, Wendy Wilmer and James Radack join Heather Whitpan), the LiveArt ensemble began to play. The show’s arc doesn’t reflect any one person’s vision: rather, it represents the collective vision of the ensemble. After three years, one workshop, one reading and a delicious bratwurst dinner, I <3 Hummels is ready to see the light.
So, What’s a Hummel?
If you ask this question to the show’s protagonist, Raymond, he’d answer (quite enthusiastically), “The most amazing pieces of collectible art ever made!” In fact, Raymond would be happy to give you the entire history of Hummels. And therein lies the problem. For Raymond is a collector of Hummels, and while he could talk for hours about the differences in marks of authenticity, he doesn’t have the first clue about how to ask a girl out. So when he’s set up on a blind date with a woman named Heidi (by her mother, no less), Raymond freaks out. Heidi, you see, hates Hummels. Hates them with a fiery passion. Raymond seeks advice from his only friend, a phone sex operator named Greta, but will it be enough? What will he say? What will he do? Will Raymond trade in his Hummels for a tandem bike?
Goethe Institut – Main Stage -812 7th Street, NW, in Washington, DC.
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