Friday, March 4, 2011

A Playlab NYC Manifesto

man·i·fes·to: a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer

A Playlab NYC Manifesto

Stitched together by Kevin P. Hale*

At Playlab NYC we are mad scientists of imagination. We concoct, unleash and support enjoyably absurd and absurdly enjoyable amusements that engage artists and audiences in the spirit of play.

The imagery that guides our aesthetic:

“Mad Scientist” - to be a Mad Scientist, both you and the science have to be mad.

We love to come at things sideways. Putting two concepts on a collision course, even when they don't seem to go together, and even when we can't figure out what their relationship is.

"lah-BOHR-ah-tor-ee" – A laboratory is safe environment conducive to experimentation, investigation, and observation. The lab is the place where the Creations! happen.

“Grave Robbing” – is the primary method of retrieving materials for our Creations!

We seek to unearth defunct or forgotten storytelling techniques, and through our own research and practical work in rehearsal, Playlab NYC tries to find out how they worked when they were living things, to bring them to life again.

“For Science!” – the rally cry of the mad scientist. When a mad scientist says that they do something “For Science!” what they usually mean is that they don't care about the answers to several legitimate questions, for example:

1. Where will I get willing test subjects?

2. Are these experiments ethical?

3. How will I fund my research, and how can I make money off of it?

4. Will it rise up against humanity and/or eat me?

At Playlab NYC our rally cry is “For the fun of it!” and we similarly don’t care about the answers to these important questions.

“Muahahahahaha!” - there are of course many kinds of laughter: polite, nervous, silent, belly, laughing at, laughing with, chuckles, snickers, snorts, cackles, and sniggering, just to name a few. If people aren’t laughing during rehearsal and during performance then we are doing it wrong.

“Patchwork Man” – the Creation! itself, physically built from parts of other works, and literally stitched together.

Our Creations! are amusements, entertainments, and trifles. We seek to make stories breathe; we don’t seek to create theatre.

At Playlab NYC, we are not slick people and we believe that things should look slapped together. We deal in collage and juxtaposition. Our creations are homemade, and the seams should show. “Meticulously messy” is how Playlab was once very accurately described.

As we continue to grow we may become savvier fundraisers, and get better budgets, but we’d still rather see the zipper on the back of the monster and the fishing wire holding up the paper plate UFO.

“Creating Life” - every Mad Scientist worth his blood-stained lab coat has this on their to-do list.

We seek to bring the inanimate to life. Our past works have delved into the inner life of desserts, panda bears, cats, and portraits. Our future works will continue to explore the anthropomorphic and the allegorical.

“Willing Test Subjects” – genuine play must be entered into voluntarily, and be motivated by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself.

It is essential when working on a Creation! that all the participants (performers, designers, audience members, etc…) have genuinely chosen to be there so that they don’t check out of the experience. If someone doesn’t believe in it and thinks it won’t work THEY WILL BE CORRECT!

“Villagers” – what is a mad scientist without a rowdy mob on the loose?

While we hope that Playlab NYC will not be chased from our home with torches and pitchforks, we do want our audience to be users of our entertainments; they are choosers, interpreters, shapers, fellow players, participants and storytellers.

Playlab NYC works to engage the audience, and as a result we have no use for the fourth wall. We toil to create audience inclusion, and sometimes even audience participation.

“What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” – famous last words of any Mad Scientist.

*I am greatly indebted to the work and ideas of Gorilla Rep, Improbable Theatre, Gerard Jones, Charles Ludlam, and John Wright. It is through their inspiration that Playlab NYC exists at all.