For a playwright, having an "off" day—or even an "off-off" day—is great.
Playwright Brett Hursey, a Longwood University English professor, had four great days in January, when a compilation of seven of his trademark 10-minute comedies was produced at an off-off Broadway theater near Times Square in New York City.
To top it off, it was the first time the compilation, titled Lady Parts, had been produced as a conventional two-act show; six of the eight performances sold out; and the show proved so popular that the producer asked Hursey for permission to reprise the show in March.
"Ten-minute play festivals are usually made up of seven plays by seven different playwrights, so it was nice to have a play produced that was my vision for an hour and a half," said Hursey, who teaches in Longwood’s creative writing program. "The seven plays were presented as one complete work, like a collection of short stories. Most ten-minute play festivals are like a Whitman box of chocolates; this was more of a unified vision."
The female-oriented Lady Parts, subtitled "Seven Short Gynocomical Plays," was performed twice daily Jan. 28-31 by the AlphaNYC Theater Co. in the Corner Office NYC Theater, an "intimate" theater with a seating capacity of about 50, said Hursey. (Off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway designations are based on seating capacity.)
"The audience seemed to like the show," said Hursey of the performance he attended Jan. 30, when extra chairs had to be brought in. "Normally I sit in the back row to see audience reaction but, because the performance was sold out, I had to sit in the front row, which was weird. That was the first time I’d sat in the front row for one of my shows. I tend to watch the audience more than the show."
Hursey received an email Feb. 4 from the show’s director, Alice Camarota, who said that producer Adam Roebuck was "so happy with the way the show turned out, he would like to bring it back for one more weekend." Negotiations are under way for those performances.
Hursey described Lady Parts as "seven different shows about seven different women. It’s about how women have to negotiate a world that is full of difficulties uniquely set up for their gender. Sometimes those difficulties are men, and sometimes those difficulties are actually other women." More than half of Hursey’s plays are written from a female perspective.
This was the second time that a full-length play by Hursey has been produced in an off- or off-off-Broadway theater. When he was a graduate student at Oklahoma State University in 1992, his play Figment was staged by the PAM Repertory Theatre in Manhattan. The "dramedy" (half-comedy/half-drama), about a psychiatrist who begins to see one of his patient’s imaginary friends, was the third play he had written and the first to be produced.
A self-taught playwright who also has published three books of poetry and two chapbooks (shorter books of poetry), Hursey has written about 30 short plays. All but one are comedies, and most feature zany characters and absurdist plots. They have been produced in five foreign countries and in more than 100 theaters across the United States, including more than 50 off/off-Broadway productions.