Garage Theater: New Play Boasts Realistic Backdrop

"The Big One," a site-specific play, unfolds in an actual carport in Atwater (then Pasadena).

Southern California has seen a number of dramatic vignettes and dances and full-scale plays take place at locations that cannot be, in any manner, described as traditional curtains-and-lights stages.

Wicked Lit, the autumn-time celebration of macabre stories, lurks about the Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery in Altadena each fall, while dancers from the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre have shimmied through laundromats, empty hospitals, and, very recently, a carwash.

Chalk Reperatory Theatre takes a similarly offbeat, though ultimately realistic tack when choosing the setting of a performance. If the setting is, say, a garage, the company doesn't just dress up a stage with boxes and bikes; they go to an existing garage to tell the tale.

That's what they're doing this June and July for "In Case of Emergency" by Theatre co-founder Ruth McKee. The site-specific play follows Meredith who is "preparing for the 'Big One'" while other urgent life matters further tangle her heart.

The play, which began in a Montrose garage over the first weekend in June, moves to an Atwater carport on June 10, 11, and 12. Pasadena will follow in late June and early July.

And, yes, the "garage door of an actual private home becomes a curtain," if you're longing for some of the traditional touchstones of a theatrical experiences.

But nothing is traditional beyond that, in terms of a lobby, or ushers, or a string quartet playing an overture, or the usual hallmarks of a night spent watching a play.

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You're in the actual setting, IRL, if you prefer, and few places are as "in real life"-y as a garage, one of the most clutter-filled and humble hearts of a home.

It's an achingly realistic spot, in some ways, to play out the dramas of life, for many viewers will likely relate, having dealt with their own life questions while cleaning up, or passing through, their own garages.

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