It’s not your typical revolution — there are no rifles in the air, raised fists, or a bearded, cigar-puffing Castro type in the forefront — the theater revolution is a redirection of New York theater propelled by two actors, Molly Pearson and Chad Beckim.
Pearson and Beckim founded the not-for-profit Partial Comfort Productions in 2001 striving to showcase undiscovered talent capable of keeping their audience ‘Partially Uncomfortable.’ The off-off Broadway theater company consists of a small ensemble that functions as a collective, generating material that really speaks to its audience, particularly a younger generation.
Inspired by other theater companies, LAByrinth and Intar, as well as the local music movement, Pearson and Beckim are ready for the rebirth they feel theater needs. “It’s a take on what we’ve seen happen with the downtown/Brooklyn music scene over the last few years. There’s been a real movement, and a sharing of resources and camaraderie,” says Pearson. Solidarity is proving strong in off and off-off-Broadway productions with Partial Comfort’s creation of Battle of the Bards (March 3 at Crobar), an event that pits seven theater companies against one another. Each company develops a team consisting of a playwright, director, and actors. The teams write, cast and perform one-act plays in ten days, which are then judged by a panel of celebrities and industry professionals. While a competition, Battle of the Bards is also something Beckim describes as a “crazy party.”
This new spirit, Pearson explains, is attracting a formerly untapped audience — twenty- and thirty-something New Yorkers who’ve been sucked in by movies or feel alienated by the theater world. “What they see on stage does not reflect their reality at all. What we want to do is show them that theater is their art form. That they belong in those seats and that they are an invaluable part of the process.”
Capturing the attention of this group hasn’t been easy. But Partial Comforts’ plays are written and produced by their peers and often incorporate issues confronting this generation. Their new play beginning March 10, Baby Girl, centers on a Long Island mother struggling to make it on her own, when the baby’s father returns for the wrong reasons. Low ticket prices haven’t hurt either. Tickets are always only $15 or $10 for those on Partial Comfort’s mailing list. Pearson sure makes it sound tempting. “The Revolution indeed will not be televised, we believe, it will be on stage. And if we’re lucky the plays on our stages will play a major role.”
Baby Girl will play at Center Stage (48th W 21st St) from March 10 to April 1. For more information on Baby Girl, Battle of the Bards or Partial Comfort Productions, check out www.partialcomfort.org.