Three one-act plays will feature a support group for mystical creatures, a school for troubled girls and a dubious alien abduction.
“The Good, the Plaid, and the Ugly,” premiering Friday, is the latest show produced by Lapu, the Coyote that Cares Theatre Company. The show features student-written plays, as well as improv performed by LCC members.
The company selected the plays through a blind, democratic process, said third-year global studies student, producer and writer Cameron Coulter. After members submitted their scripts, the company read the plays together without knowing who wrote what.
Together, the company voted for plays based on its preferences and on plots it thought would combine well together, resulting in the selection of “Creatures,” “Rialto, CA. 1993″ and “Plaid Girls.”
The title “The Good, the Plaid, and the Ugly” was inspired by the central struggles between good and evil within the plays and the coincidental pun on “Plaid Girls,” said fourth-year film, television and digital media student Emma Dudley, the writer of “Plaid Girls.”
Second-year linguistics and psychology student Margaret Holscher wanted to write a play with a concept that would use the eye-catching makeup techniques she had seen in one of LCC’s winter quarter plays, “Game of Greed.”
The play used face paint to turn actors into animals such as a snake and a goat, and this became part of the impetus for “Creatures,” Holscher’s play about a support group for mythical beings integrating into human society.
The story centers on a human who infiltrates the group, targeting a vulnerable ghost and manipulating him emotionally. Holscher placed importance on examining the psychological layers of manipulation, particularly from the manipulator’s perspective.
“If it was done just straight with humans, it would be a little less obvious, the point that I was trying to make,” Holscher said. “People who are manipulative … usually don’t fully understand where other people are coming from. They’re a little more transparent than we think they are.”
Holscher appreciated the actors’ commitment to the physicality of their roles and the directors’ vision for the play that focused on the relationships between characters.
“Sometimes, I just write stuff down and hope that (the directors) can figure out how to do it,” Holscher said. “They actually did a really good job of bringing out what I wanted to bring out and highlighting different things within the script that you wouldn’t get just by reading it.”
“Rialto, CA. 1993″
Coulter always loved paranormal and alien abduction movies, but he wanted to add a more grounded, human element to his play “Rialto, CA. 1993.”
He wanted to explore his fascination with the unknown while also examining humanistic elements, like the impact of emotions on decisions and the power of circumstance to warp people’s beliefs, Coulter said.
Coulter’s play begins with two government agents interviewing a supposed victim of an alien abduction. As the play progresses, the truth becomes less discernible. The man’s explanation and the agents’ treatment of their interrogation subject serve as clues that the narrative isn’t as clear-cut as it seems.
Watching the development of the play was both magical and frustrating, Coulter said. He originally envisioned a red-lit background, but the only available lighting was a red light at the front of the stage that colored everything onstage. Although the lighting scheme initially distracted Coulter, he came to like the new design.
“When you write it, you very much have a clear vision for it,” Coulter said. “So when you see it made, there’s this beautiful moment where you’re like, ‘This is not what I envisioned, but it is something that is better and new and fresh.’”
Coulter hopes audiences will be surprised by the twist ending of his play and gain insight into human relationships.
“I want (audiences) to take away that … sometimes, things can seem hopeless but that we should not give into temptation (and anger),” Coulter said. “And also, I just want people to have fun, which I think is a big part of the college experience.”
Although “Plaid Girls” will be performed as a one-act play, the story has been told through several mediums.
Dudley first began writing the story in her intermediate screenwriting class last year, where she wrote the first 10 pages of an hourlong show.
Dudley then adapted the story into a half-hour comedy and most recently rewrote it as a one-act play for this show.
“I’ve done everything with it, but it’s all been part of an exploration,” Dudley said. “How do I make this thing better? What are the different forms that I can use to tell the story?”
“Plaid Girls” stars an optimistic teen placed in a school for troubled girls. Dudley cited “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” as inspiration for the upbeat protagonist, while “Orange Is the New Black” influenced the unconventional group dynamic – although Dudley describes the tone as lighter than the latter Netflix show.
The play tackles the definition of troubled – the protagonist initially struggles to escape from the school because she feels she doesn’t belong there.
“By the end, she discovers everyone is kind of troubled and needs help,” Dudley said. “Through my own experiences of struggling with various things in high school, within my family, I think people should feel more comfortable asking for help.”
Dudley found the process of writing the play a rewarding challenge because of the ways it differed from screenwriting. Film relies more on visual details, so Dudley worked to focus her play on physical comedy as well as direct the audience’s attention to certain elements on stage, like characters’ facial expressions, that were important to the story.
Another key difference from her screenwriting class was the opportunity to see her work as a fully realized production, Dudley said.
“It’s really hard to make a living being a screenwriter or a playwright – it’s almost impossible because everything (being made in the industry) is just so awesome,” Dudley said. “What really keeps me going is the opportunity to see (my work) come to life.”