It’s hard to get a handle on playwright Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information.” Staged by socially-minded ensemble troupe Forum Theatre in Silver Spring, the play is a collection of moments that mimic modern communication, served up with a soupçon of actor-improvised characterizations and directed by Forum’s Artistic Director Michael Dove.
Bear in mind that Forum, founded in 2003, named itself after the spot in ancient Rome where citizens gathered to soak up new ideas, and that the group is all about challenging and engaging its audience. With “Love and Information,” a collection of 57 mini-plays, it attempts to do all that and more. Michael Dove explained.
“Love and Information” sounds…different! Are there really 57 mini-plays in one?
Actually, I think we’ve ended up with closer to 75 in the end! There are 57 scenes in the main body of the script; some last only five seconds; none are longer than five minutes.
How does that play out?
In the script, every vignette has a title. For example, one is called ‘Wedding Video.’ Other titles are ‘Secret’ and ‘Rash.’ The scenes are grouped into seven sections, each section simply numbered 1 to 7.
Are the stories connected?
Each short scenario is discrete and isolated from the others, with different characters in every scene. Which means that there are more than 120 characters in the play—played by a cast of 14 actors in our production.
Speaking of actors, does the cast help create or fleshing out their characters?
The script for “Love and Information” is quite unique in that it only provides the lines to be spoken—no breakdown of who says what, how many characters are in a scene, who those characters are, or even what their setting or situation is. There are only three given stage directions in the entire play. So, the artistic team is tasked with filling in the blanks and creating the world of the play according to the production’s specific needs and intentions.
How do you find a team with the creativity to embellish their roles as prescribed by the playwright?
It’s a daunting task to figure out, but a tremendous gift for a production team. We‘ve been given an opportunity to create a piece that is a unique product of the people in the room and the stories we want to tell. So, we cast the show thinking about how to tell the story of contemporary America and of the D.C. area.
What were you looking for in a cast?
We wanted the cast to look like a cross-section of who we are, as a nation and as a community. And then we looked for actors who thought collaboratively and who would be willing to jump into an unusual process where they’d be asked to try lots of things and move around in roles and scenarios.
What was the creative process like?
We held several workshops ahead of the rehearsals, starting to dive into the scenes and then starting working through the play, every night. Actors would pitch ideas for what the scenes might mean, go off and rehearse with a partner, then come in and present their take. Some scenes probably went through 15 iterations with different castings each time!
Is the cast new to Forum? Do they function as an ensemble?
About half of the actors have worked at Forum before and with me, personally. That was super helpful on a process like this where we needed to work quickly and in an unusual manner—trust was important. And I think that set a tone for the new artists and gave them allowance to play and experiment in a safe space with folks who had a vocabulary already established.
What has been the audience reaction so far?
I’ve been so pleased that the response has been so positive all along age groups. And the show really was made for that. Many of these scenes address and celebrate age and generational differences and the way technology has sped up cultural evolution in a way never seen in history.
Forum Theatre’s “Love and Information” is at the Silver Spring Black Box Theater, 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring through Saturday, Oct. 21. Shows starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $33 to $38 in advance, with pay-what-you-want tickets available one hour before the show at the box office. Call 301-588-8279 or visit https://forum-theatre.org. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.