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Best of Tacoma 2019: Off the Shelf at Tacoma Little Theatre

Writer's Pick: Best One-Night Stand

Tim Hoban and Casi Pruitt in Dear Liar. Photo courtesy Tacoma Little Theatre

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They might be plays and they might be short stories or works in progress, but whatever they are, the dramatic readings in Tacoma Little Theatre's Off the Shelf series are likely to be shows you'll never see anywhere else, or perhaps previews of shows you might get to see in a year or two, if you're lucky. They are often experimental and sometimes envelope-pushing. They are presented by local actors, writers and directors. And if you are a season-ticket holder, they are absolutely free ($10 for everyone else).

All Off the Shelf productions are presented for one night only. Usually the show is followed by a Q&A with the actors, writer or director.

During the 2018-2019 season, Off the Shelf shows included: For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday by Sara Ruhl; Hurly Burly by David Rabe, directed by Scott C. Brown; a reading of the musical Babes in Toyland with new book and lyrics by Niclas Olson; a new adaptation of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure adapted and directed by Christian Carvajal; Laura Gunderson's The Revolutionists; Mrs. Packard, directed by Pug Bujeaud; and Bryan Willis' Bootleg, directed by Erin Chanfrau.

Chris Serface, artistic managing director at Tacoma Little Theatre, said, "We know that there is a tremendous amount of wonderful theater that deserves to be heard but sometimes just doesn't get an opportunity. With Off the Shelf, local directors and actors will be bringing some scripts to life that we hope you will find entertaining, challenging and educational to our stage. Through the program, we've been able to present theater that can challenge our audiences to think differently and sit back and relax. We've had controversial tales, Building the Wall, classic pieces with new twists, Measure for Measure (updated for the me-too movement), and original works, Bootleg. It fits with our motto of ‘the theater you want to see and the theater you didn't know you want to see.'"

There are little or no production costs, so the presenters don't have to worry about catering to public taste, making it easier for TLT to gamble on risky shows.

Willis, author of Bootleg, is playwright-in-residence, Northwest Playwrights Alliance at Seattle Repertory Theatre and one of the South Sound's most prolific and most-loved playwrights.

"I have a long, happy history of commissioned productions with TLT but their recent Off the Shelf presentation of Bootleg was the first time the theater provided me with the all-important opportunity to simply listen to an informal reading in front of an audience," Willis said. He went on to say, "Director Erin Chanfrau put together a superb cast which helped me consider exciting possibilities for the script. Off the Shelf is an important step forward for local play development. Now could we please figure out a way to move TLT to my hometown -- Olympia?"
Next season's Off the Shelf productions beginning Sept. 19 will be: Outside Mullingar, directed by Curt Hetherington; Fuddy Meers, directed by Suzy Wilhoft; The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, directed by Warren Kerr (which TLT produced two summers ago, as a one-night benefit reading for victims of the Orlando massacre); Marisol, directed by Angelica Duncan-Basile; Motherhood Out Loud, directed by Lexi Barnett; plus two yet-to-be-determined shows to be directed by Jeffery Swiney-Weaver and Jennifer Niehaus-Rivers.

OFF THE SHELF, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St., Tacoma, $10, free to season subscribers, 253.272.2281,

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