Defying Convention

This week’s Poets Party at Naropa University — an offshoot of the school’s summer writing program and a response to the Democratic National Convention — might be inadvertently hilarious. But for a take on the DNC that makes you laugh and think without the transcendental poetry, Avenue Theater’s Convention? might do the trick.

The show, which began its run in late June, features three fictional candidates running for a spot on the “Patriots Party” ticket, with the rest of the twelve-person cast playing members of the respective support teams. The improvisational format is limited by two factors only: the predetermined fictional primary location (Green Bay, Wisconsin, for example) and the three-act format, which comprises thirty minutes of pre-debate scene setting, the debate itself, and the post-debate spinning by each candidate’s staff.

Producer Chris Gallegos planned the show for months. “We wanted something fresh,” he says, “and something we really tried to do was not try to act like the two major parties. The only female candidate of the three (played by Sandy Brewer) still drew comparisons to Hillary Clinton, an occurrence that could be explained by the attention that Gallegos and the cast pay to current events and their attempts to integrate certain details into the show. “We send a weekly note out to the characters with political events that have happened,” says Gallegos.

That said, the production still needs to be funny, and the cast stays focused on that. “Here’s something we’re really proud of,” says Gallegos. “You could have been have living in a cave for the last ten years, and you’ll still enjoy the show. We don’t beat anybody over the head with this stuff.”

The majority of the cast members are improv actors, though one also has a major role in Hunger Artists Ensemble Theatre’s production of Letters to Home. And all are dedicated to their characters (one even put up a MySpace and Facebook account.) Gallegos describes the candidates as having “some really off-the-wall stuff for ideas, but in a context of a kind of strange logic.” Hmm. Sounds eerily similar to the real thing.

Convention? costs $10 and continues at the Avenue Theater, 417 East 17th Avenue, Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. through September 5. As the real thing approaches, however, the show will also take the Bovine Metropolis Theatre stage, 1527 Champa Street, on Thursday nights. Get more information at 303-321-5925.
Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: June 17. Continues through Sept. 2, 2008


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