Arts & Culture

15 minutes of experimental theater

Ivar Vong

“Creatures” crawl through the audience, a student plays beer pong with his sleeping friend connected to his back, and police beat up businesspeople in Frani Geiger’s “WooInFloo”, opening this weekend in the University’s Pocket Playhouse.

The play is a series of five vignettes set in what might be called an alternative universe. It begins with a young girl, played by sophomore Sarah Ruggles, looking out at the audience and trying to persuade them that she doesn’t belong in that world.

“WooInFloo,” a short play written and directed by Geiger, will show Thursday Friday, and Saturday at 5 p.m. in 102 Villard. Admission is free.

The play is named “WooInFloo” after the Wooster Group, an experimental New York theater troupe that performs “fast-paced little scenes going on one after the other,” which Geiger said was her inspiration for the play’s disconnected plot.

None of the characters have names. The play has only a few spoken lines, but clips of music that match the action onstage echo through the auditorium. Geiger describes her play as “visual,” “experimental” and “a hodgepodge of little scenes.”

“I think something a lot of people relate to is the duality in life,” Geiger said. “There are a couple of vignettes that play with the idea of being torn between two things: the fact that a lot of times you’re torn in two places, or you feel like two people.”

For example, in one scene, a guy parties while attached to his sleeping friend. Later, the same person hooks up with a girl while his friend lifts weights, still connected to him.

Ruggles, who plays the dislocated girl, said the disconnected scenes push the audience to experience the play in the moment.

“In other plays, you’d have more of an opportunity to connect the scenes,” Ruggles said. “There are so many different scenes that you have to connect with just that part.”

Several times throughout the play, two “creatures” crawl through the audience not only up the aisles but also over the seats themselves and interact with audience members. The creatures are played by junior Barbie Wu and freshman Zoe Muellner, who also act in other roles during the play.

“I really like the audience interaction,” Muellner said. “This play is pretty down and dirty, and it has a poignant message. It’s more than just an evening at the theater.”

Wu agreed. She added that “WooInFloo” is more in-your-face than most plays.

“It’s not so much about looking pretty,” Wu said.

After 15 minutes of strange, funny and confusing moments, “WooInFloo” ends with the girl alone and silent on stage.

“At the end, I look to the audience like I’m asking them if they understand what I’ve been through,” Ruggles said.

Geiger called her first experience as a director “incredibly scary but also incredibly fun.” Because of the play’s length, the cast began rehearsals only 10 days before the play’s opening night.

“I’ve had a lot of support in terms of cast,” Geiger said. “Every rehearsal we make so much progress; I was very surprised how flexible the actors were. They’ve been so receptive to my insanity, the ebb and the flow of my attempts of figuring out the directing role.”

Geiger is working toward her Master of Fine Arts in lighting design. She decided to write a play to take advantage of the availability of the Pocket Playhouse, a small stage reserved for student-produced plays.

“The Pocket is a great venue. You can do anything in the Pocket, whether you’ve done it before or not,” Geiger said. “Having the vehicle to produce a play was the first thing. You can’t ride a bike without a bike.”

The cast of mostly theater arts majors praised Geiger’s performance as a first-time director.

“Frani knows what she wants, but she’s open to ideas as well,” Wu said.
Ruggles said that participating in the piece has been “really exciting” and has helped her develop as an actor.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot by connecting with each different part and learning how to make sense of it,” Ruggles said. “For me, the process has been about trying to understand Frani’s play.”

Geiger said she has enjoyed the chance to step away from her background in lighting and set design and experience a different side of theater production. Though she admits that the play as a whole “doesn’t really make sense,” she said she hoped that the short vignettes would provoke thought in the audience.

“I haven’t seen anything like this performed here yet,” Geiger said. “I think this is something where you’re going to walk out thinking ‘I know I picked something up.'”

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