Jackalope: Summer Tales of Strangeness weaves seven stories together Thursday

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Calling all unicorns, jackalopes, mermaids, basilisks, abominable snowmen and New Jersey Devils! Grab a few s'mores, and settle in for a fun-filled night of theatrical mayhem as the Theater Company of Lafayette (TCL) weaves seven campfire-esque shorts all crafted to challenge preconceived notions, shatter misconceptions and keep you guessing long after the smoke's subsided.

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The mini-plays surround the common theme of urban legends and other tales dealing with unusual events that are typically told amongst friends gathered 'round the campfire.

In delightfully imaginative ways, each play will ask viewers to confront their assumptions and fears. In one play, for example, a woman grieving over her mother's death is comforted by a cousin who turns out to operate under a very different belief system -- a situation that asks the audience to question conventional wisdom.

There's also a piece -- parts of which are performed in English, parts in Spanish -- that touches on immigration issues. "Even if you don't speak both languages, you'll be able to follow the story," says TCL Artistic Director Madge Montgomery who wrote one of the seven plays and directs several.

While monsters and other mythical creatures are indeed broached, the pieces are generally lighthearted. "The overall impact is that this is comedy, although there are some poignant and curious moments," Montgomery says.

In order to challenge assumptions and misconceptions, projectors will display a series of true-false quizzes between sets. The questions are designed to help audience members think about what they immediately assume is true and what they assume is false.

The Theater Company of Lafayette has been around since 1996, but it branched out in 2005 by adding new material to its repertoire, including these quirky annual play festivals highlighting never-before-seen material. Each year, TCL picks a theme, then commissions writers or puts out a call for submissions.

The effort has worked, Montgomery says. In part, it's about experimenting with new concepts and ideas. It's also about honing in on local and emerging talent."Lots of theaters shy away from new plays, But we've built a pretty good audience of people who are adventurous and willing to take a risk and see something new. For such a small company, we've achieved lots of artistic success."

TCL is the theater-in-residence at the Mary Miller Theater building, a small and intimate playhouse located at 300 East Simpson Street.

The show runs Thursdays through Sundays, June 20-30. All Thursday through Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 for general admission; seniors and students are $13; children under 12 are $10. All tickets are $10 on Thursdays. Tickets can be purchased on the Theater Company of Lafayette website or by calling 720-209-2154.

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