Fisch Haus launches Theatre Thursdays for March
Risk-taking contemporary theater doesn't turn up in Wichita often. But the mind behind Fisch Haus's new Theatre Thursday program (which launches tonight), Michael Webber, said he was "sick of seeing the same plays performed over and over."
Since 2008, Webber has been producing and performing in an annual show with the acting troupe The Obstreperous Players at Fisch Haus. The shows have ranged from the classical and absurdist, to edgy contemporary theater.
Last year after the show, Webber said a patron approached him. She told him that the players were her favorite theater company and that they should do more than one play a year. And the idea for a Fisch Haus theater festival as a viable option was born.
Webber also credits the success of Fisch Haus's Jazz Tuesdays for helping inspire a month of theater.
"I thought the concept could work well for theater and so I proposed it to Fisch Bowl, the non-profit committee that plans various events at Fisch Haus, and they went for it," he said. "Cock by Mike Bartlett had already been decided as the official Obstreperous Players entry into the event, so we decided to find additional provocative, contemporary pieces to unify the various plays." (Several F5 contributors are Fisch Bowl board members, including editor-in-chief Mike Marlett.)
Tonight, Webber's production of Cock will launch the month-long Thursday series. Following weeks, in order, will feature Oleanna by David Mamet, The Mercy Seat by Neil Labute, and Offending the Audience by Peter Handke. These plays have performed in some of the biggest cities in the country collectively, and cover material that's rare to see in the Wichita theater scene.
"Wichita audiences deserve a chance to see these works without having to drive to a 'major' city," Webber said. "The plays we are presenting are not considered as viable options for most theaters in town. Either they won't make money or they fear they will ostracize the audience."
Webber said he's never been too preoccupied with making money from theater, but rather he seeks to make art. "I want to provoke, challenge and inspire an audience," he said. "The four plays selected for Theatre Thursdays aim to do just that."
If you haven't made it to Fisch Haus for an event before, be prepared for a relaxed, casual environment. Bring a drink of your choice if you feel like it. Ticket prices are suggested donations (but remember, donations show respect for the work) and Webber says, "you will be up close and personal with the actors." The shows also run shorter than regular theatergoers might be used to — don't expect an intermission!
If the event is successful this year, Webber hopes to see it continue on and become an annual experience for Fisch Haus patrons.
The benefit according to Webber: "You don't have to figure out something to do on Thursdays in March! Just come to Fisch Haus and see a cool, contemporary play."
Or if Thursdays don't work, swing by the night before to experience an open final dress rehearsal. It might not sail as smoothly as the official night, but it gives the audience a chance to see how the theater process works (and catch a very limited-run show on a non-Thursday).