Theater group eliminates fourth wall, performs 30 plays in 60 minutes

By: Nick Mordowanec | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published January 31, 2020

 Carson Killmar, of Harrison Township,  performs in the play “Trigger Warning” in 2017. She is the daughter of UnTheatre Company founder Christina Killmar, who is putting on a six-week show in Detroit.

Carson Killmar, of Harrison Township, performs in the play “Trigger Warning” in 2017. She is the daughter of UnTheatre Company founder Christina Killmar, who is putting on a six-week show in Detroit.

Photo provided by Carson Killmar

Advertisement

METRO DETROIT — Get ready for a whole new kind of theatergoing experience.

UnTheatre Company kicked off its six-week run of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” Jan. 11 at Matrix Theatre Company, 2730 Bagley St. in Detroit. It concludes Feb. 16.

The premise is quite unique, as performers attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. Originally conceived and produced by Greg Allen, the performance art is now referred to as neo-futurism. Members write, direct and perform their original plays.

Once an individual takes the stage, a simple “go” kicks off the performance. When “curtain” is said, the performer literally tells the attendees that the play is over. Some performances are as short as 30 seconds; others may last five minutes. The average performance is about two minutes.

But there’s a catch: The audience actually chooses the order of the plays.

UnTheatre Company founder Christina Killmar said numbers correspond with particular plays. The sooner audience members call out, the more plays that take place.

At the end of each night, two dice are thrown and added together. Between two and 12 plays are replaced each week during the duration of the run.

“There’s never the same play twice. … From week to week, the show is different,” Killmar said. “From evening to evening, the show is different.”

It’s the third season for the theater group, which is based out of southeast Michigan and has performed in cities like Detroit, Hamtramck, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and elsewhere. The neo-futurism label means there are no sets, no costumes and limited props. Performers write the plays — some as individuals, others as groups — and they are “true as written, true as performed.”

“It kind of eliminates the fourth wall and suspension of disbelief for the audience, creating a unique connection between performer and audience members,” Killmar said.

Allen created the original format in the 1980s, performing in major cities such as Chicago, New York and San Francisco. It was produced worldwide. Killmar said that as of now, no company aside from UnTheatre has the license to do the show.

There are approximately 24 writing and performing ensemble members. They do as many runs as there are venues available, aiming for three to four runs per year.

And unlike many theater-like atmospheres, the use of phones is encouraged and “whatever happens just happens.”

Killmar’s daughter, Carson, 22, is a producer and performer with the show. The Harrison Township native and recent Michigan State University graduate said she and her mother saw the show in New York City while she was a sophomore in high school. When she graduated from college, Christina Killmar asked her daughter to be part of the company.

“I fell in love and it was something we kind of shared a love for a long time ago. … It seemed like a good fit to do it as a team,” Carson Killmar said. “It’s definitely interesting working with family. It was a weird transition figuring out how to be mother/daughter to partners. It worked very well. Our brains just kind of work the same way.”

Carson Killmar said the way the performance is assembled, it’s meant for those who may not necessarily like the theater but can find something special about the performers and their points of view — and even those who may be burnt out on traditional theater.

She described it as “watching the news in an entertaining way,” as issues surrounding normal people every day are updated with every new week’s performances. The performers themselves talk about personal aspects of their lives, connecting with audience members on intimate levels.

When audience members leave the show, Carson Killmar said, it’s almost as if they know the performers. That’s because nobody is acting or playing a character; they are just playing themselves.

“One play you could not relate to it at all, and the next one really hits home,” she said.

Tickets can be purchased for $15 at the door, plus the resulting number of the roll of a six-sided dice, or online for $21 with the resulting number of the roll of a six-sided dice being returned to the patron at the door.

“Durrty 30” late night performances are also taking place throughout the run. Those tickets can be purchased at the door for the resulting roll of a 10-sided dice, or online for $11 with the resulting number of the roll of a 10-sided dice being returned to the patron at the door.

Discounts are available for union members, teachers, students, seniors, active and retired military personnel, and first responders. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.untheatreco.org or call (313) 444-0652.

Advertisement