KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando previews the New Play Cafe's Simply Sci-Fi at the Big Kitchen Cafe.
Related Story: Preview: New Play Cafe's Simply Sci-Fi
HOST INTRO: The Big Kitchen Cafe is known for its home-style cooking and desserts in a cozy setting. But starting this week you’ll be getting more than ice cream with your brownie sundae. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando takes you to another dimension with the New Play Café’s Simply Sci-Fi.
CAFEPLAY 1 (ba).wav 3:55
TAG: New Play Café’s Simply Sci-Fi runs Thursdays and Fridays through August 30th at the Big Kitchen Café in South Park.
This week, the Big Kitchen Cafe is contemplating pricing for a new menu item: time travel.
TIFFANY: It’s like a gazillion dollars to go into the future.
KEVIN: I like that it’s on the menu and that it costs a lot.
But don’t worry, going back to the past will be a whole lot cheaper. You have to act quickly, though, because time travel is only available for the next three weeks as the restaurant plays host to the New Play Café’s Simply Sci-Fi, a tasty collection of six new ten-minute plays. Kevin Six co-founded New Play Café. He says audiences will have plenty to savor.
KEVIN SIX: They can expect good food, they can expect original new theater written by San Diego playwrights, and to have the plays performed right in their laps.
Attendees may have a hard time distinguishing the wait staff from the performers, and actors may literally brush elbows with you at the counter. Laura Preble sampled the New Play Café’s first offering back in May.
LAURA PREBLE: You felt like you were in the middle of the action. I had this feeling of eavesdropping on people’s conversations, actors were coming in working around the audience members and serving them so it made you feel like you were part of the play, which is a really unique experience. I enjoyed it.
Judy Forman’s been running the Big Kitchen for 33 years, and she’s thrilled by what New Play Café is cooking up.
JUDY FORMAN: I guess I have a lot of theater genes in me and I don’t get to be onstage but I get to be backstage a lot and I love the creativity that happens here.
It’s not the first time such creativity has been served up at her diner. Back in 1989, Forman encouraged John Highkin to whip up some Diner Theater and Dessert Theater at the Big Kitchen.
JOHN HIGHKIN: It’s a wonderful place to create in and audiences really like being close to what happens, somehow it becomes a really different experience for audiences and a different experience for people who create theater.
It also means low overhead for a company since there’s no lighting or set design, and no expensive theater rentals. Plus it’s easy to sell the house out says Highkin.
JOHN HIGHKIN: 25 people, and you’re sold out. And so you create demand. What it is really is the scale is wonderful. There are enough nooks and crannies, and it’s visually pretty fun that it’s possible to do things without having to alter the space much.
The New Play Café’s first production, Coffee Shop Chronicles, was tailored to the space with all the plays set in coffee shops. This time, the theme is science fiction and audiences will have to make a big leap of faith with the creators says co-founder Lizzie Silverman.
LIZZIE SILVERMAN: Obviously we are going to use imagination a lot, which is one of the elements I like about science fiction is you can just ask the audience to go there with you and imagine new things.
One of those things is time travel. Playwright Janet Tiger changes up the recipe for time travel by emphasizing the emotional ingredients.
JANET TIGER: I believe very strongly that there is the ability to travel through time that we don’t even you know, think about much but for example your mother calls you on the phone and bingo she says one thing and you’re back 30 years.
Her Time Travel Café considers the emotional baggage we carry as we travel into a past we cannot change. Another plays suggests a close encounter but with a dash of humor.
TIFFANY: Yeah, I just like to pretend I’m dying before I reveal the secrets to the cosmos.
MAN: I was right, I am your straight man.
Eric Poppick is one of the co-directors. He says that without expensive sets and special effects, the focus is on the flavorful characters.
ERIC POPPICK: The plays I have there are not real outer space people I have more humans who could be from outer space, you get to decide.
Jennie Olson Six is another New Play Café co-founder. She says the goal was to challenge San Diego writers to submit new work and then foster their creative process.
JENNIE OLSON SIX: We wanted to give them a little bit of a mini-workshop experience. We wanted to give them a chance to see their work on stage and by on stage we mean on the kitchen floor… but I think that if your play can stand the test of being performed in a restaurant while people are eating dessert it has a pretty good chance of being produced later out there.
The short plays dished up by the New Play Café’s Simply Sci-Fi can be looked at as tantalizing appetizers to something bigger and more filling to come.
Beth Accomando, KPBS News.