Monkey With a Hat On is a Portland theater company founded by Ollie Collins that provides original shows for $5 admission and welcomes anyone who wants to act, write or otherwise become involved in theater. The Ten Minute Play Festival is the company’s 42nd production.
A giant inflatable dragon greeted me at the entrance, and a fairy was working the merch table. Buzzing crowds waited on the sidewalk an hour before the show started because they knew it might sell out.
I scored a front row seat near some grade-A hecklers. A wizard emcee introduced two disguised musicians: violinist-singer Rachel Bock and guitarist-singer Josh Cole. They played folk and bluegrass music throughout the evening.
Every play was written and directed by someone different, so it was fun to see how each group interpreted the chosen theme: fantasy. Two plays fantasized with show-stealing devil characters, and one play embodied the instinct-driven part of Self with a hairy monster. Another fantasized about gender equality then ended with a stark observation that the only escape from inequality is changing our present reality.
In Conan the Smitten, written by James Stobie, a witch tricked Conan the Barbarian and Doom so she could pay off her student loans. At one point, spellbound Conan made out with a skeleton while the other two watched in disgust.
My award for greatest creative risk-taking goes to Orcsplaining, written and directed by Mark Russell. This short used Lord of the Rings fan fiction to explore recent controversy regarding Confederate statues.
Orcs wanted to build a statue of Sauron, who had committed atrocities against the Hobbits, at the Mordor College of Lava Studies. A debate took place. Colonel Gak’s arguments about honoring history hit close to home and were effectively deconstructed, saying, “This isn’t history—It’s fantasy.”
Gandalf was shot but came back to life to assert his role as moderator, telling Colonel Gak that the statue was not acceptable. Everyone left the stage except Colonel Gak who admitted it might be time to reconsider his beliefs.
Somehow, in an era permeated by Facebook-style dialogue, theater lives! It was refreshing to see earnest, difficult dialogue hashed out by local community members in crazy costumes. I also loved every unpretentious, potentially corny joke of the night.
The next Ten Minute Play Festival at the Clinton Street Theater will be on March 9–10 and 16–17. Casting calls begin January 27. Anyone looking to participate can email [email protected].