Storytime on stage 

ART launches new reading series

Alley Repertory Theater is hard at work carving out its niche. Along with creating a branch of ART called Alley Underground to stage more avant-garde plays, they're offering a series of readings in which the works of local playwrights are read.

Four scripts were chosen for this year's series. Each one is read in full by actors in front of an audience after which, the audience is asked fill out a survey. Based on the surveys, the audience response and how well the play fits in with ART's overall vibe, the play may be fully staged in the future.

ART co-artistic director Hollis Welsh said the readings evolved organically.

"Summer months are slower so we were looking for ways to fill the time. We get plays sent into us and decided to select a few for readings. Four bubbled to the top."

Head was the first to find a voice. Russ Stoddard, founder and president of Oliver Russell, spent more than two years writing Head, a play that examines the "aftermath of a beheading in modern-day Iraq," including the beheaded man's search for his body with help from a group of famous beheadees--Marie Antoinette, Balboa, Goliath, etc.

It's a gruesome comedy hook, but one with a message. Stoddard wanted to consider what long-term and wide-reaching effects "societal beliefs and tribal rituals" may have.

Welsh described the experience with Head as amazing. Nearly all of the 99 seats they set out were full and the audience "responded to the interactive experience, where they got to listen to local work, then share their feedback and talk with the cast and writer afterward."

ART asked Sabah Al-Anbaki, an Iraqi man, to read one of the lead roles. Welsh said having the "real deal" gave the play authenticity and resonated with the audience.

"We had an amazing line-up. Everyone brought the right mix of humor and playfulness, gravitas and intensity."

By press time, audiences will have had the opportunity to hear the second play, Catherine by June Daniels. Daniels explores a 40-year period in the life of Catherine the Great. The reading of Inflection Point by Greg Hampikian is on Monday, July 20, and Cocktails at the Fisher's by Kelly Brioch is on Monday, July 27.

7:30 p.m., $7. VAC, 3638 Osage St.. Garden City, 208-388-4278,

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