Jouska Productions has released their second episode for The Playwright Zone, a project created by award-winning playwright John Becker. The idea behind the project was to generate more work opportunities for local artists, coming out of the pandemic shutdown of theaters, and directly link their compensation to the production. Every time an episode is rented, the funds are distributed among the artists involved.
Becker explains, “Most people want to support the arts. We’re giving them an insanely affordable way of doing just that, and getting instant entertainment in return.”
The first episode, Summit Meeting, saw two men stuck in an elevator. Vince Eisenson (playing Hiram) and Jose Guzman (playing Abdul) have a less than civil conversation that starts as a minor disagreement but quickly turns to a heated debate about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict as an unspoken analogy to the matter of who gets to push the elevator controls.
Episode two, Last Chance, follows a similar construct with just two characters, Karen Vincent as Isabel and Scott Abernethy as Bob, with their interaction serving as a story and also a commentary on taboo topics. This episode’s focus is mental health and the gray area that exists in our perception of what is healthy versus quirky or unhealthy.
Isabel and Bob were introduced via a dating app and are meeting for the first time, but Bob initially denies and falters on whether or not he is actually the person she is waiting for. Isabel is nervous and awkward, oversharing and overwhelming Bob with her stream-of-consciousness commentary. But his hesitation turns to curiosity, and then possibility.
Mental health is a hot topic today, with the rise in depression and increasing awareness of how very common mental illness is. But with that awareness must come compassion, which will never happen unless we sit with our fears, preconceived notions, and judgment on mental health and break down those barriers to understanding.
Last Chance was originally read at Writer’s Center and was staged at Source Theatre and The Point in DC. The episode premiered this week but will be available, along with Summit Meeting, on the Jouska Productions website.
The Playwright Zone is one of the evolutions of theater to appear after COVID upended everyone’s lives and promises more episodes and opportunities to support and experience local artists. I applaud founder John Becker for his resilience and dedication to producing art and opportunities in a time when things seem impossible. And I look forward to what Jouska Productions has to offer up next.
Cast: Karen Vincent as Isabel and Scott Abernethy as Bob
Written and Directed by John Becker
Boom Operator: Brad Klotz
The Playwright Zone to create digital theater with paid local talent by Kendall Mostafavi