Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart

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New Plastic Theatre

Twin Cities theatre troupe stuffed with locals

Anna Semanko

The New Plastic Theatre’s first production is “An Answer for the Unknown,” written by CJ Krueger. The play will be presented at the upcoming Minnesota Fringe Festival.
The New Plastic Theatre’s first production is “An Answer for the Unknown,” written by CJ Krueger. The play will be presented at the upcoming Minnesota Fringe Festival.

When someone says “theatre,” what image comes to mind? Typically, one may imagine a thick velvet red curtain flowing open to bright lights shining over a prop-filled stage. A simple story line of rehearsed words, fading in and out from scene to scene. Now take that image… and completely forget it.  A new group emerging from the Twin Cities, but made up of many former Eau Clairians, is trying to bring out their own view of what “theatre” should be. Think simplicity, think emotion, think music, think dance, think costume. Think theatre to the extreme. Think The New Plastic Theatre.

“Its theatre broken from convention. It’s about embracing new media and forms of expression and bringing it to the stage.” – UW-Eau Claire graduate Tyler Morris on The New Plastic Theatre

The New Plastic Theatre is a theatre group that was founded by Tyler Morris, a UW-Eau Claire graduate, with the help of playwright CJ Krueger last fall. The group consists of about 20 people currently – ranging from actors and actresses, media specialists, writers and musicians, most of whom have lived in Eau Claire. 

New Plastic Theatre isn’t a completely new concept. The name and general idea come from Tennessee Williams, an American writer. “New Plastic Theatre comes from a production note Tennessee Williams put before The Glass Menagerie in 1945. Tennessee had called for a ‘…new, plastic theatre, which must take the place of the exhausted theatre of realistic conventions…’ And we’re embracing it,” said Morris, “Its theatre broken from convention.  It’s about embracing new media and forms of expression and bringing it to the stage.” The group uses more creative visual and audio techniques to enhance stories and bring them to life. 

While many of the group members are experienced in the world of theatrics, including Morris, who is an alum of other groups such as the UWEC Players, New Plastic Theatre has just finished its very first play, “An Answer for the Unknown.” The play, written by CJ Krueger and directed by Morris, will be presented at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. It follows the main character, Dane, on a journey through hell.  

“He hasn’t died, but he just lost his love and is terrified that hell is where they ended up. He responds to an ad for a tour of hell that appears on his computer,” says Morris. “He meets [an array of other characters] and through their stories and their lessons he makes discoveries and finds his answer about death, dying, and the afterlife.”  

But remember folks, this isn’t just your average theatre show. A New Plastic Theatre wants to create a brand new experience. For “An Answer for the Unkown,” this means shadow puppetry. The play also features music composed by Jessica McIlquham, who is recruiting instrumentalists from Eau Claire to play it. Along with original music, Morris said the show will include, “a bit of dance…  [and] highly stylized costumes and makeup.” The group also just finished filming a short video series that goes along with the show. Morris said, “[it] provides the ‘the moment before’ [Dane’s journey]… all together, it’s a unique multimedia performance”. The six-part short film series, called “Prelude,” will launch on July 25 and can be found on New Plastic Theatre’s Facebook page. While the videos stand alone from the play, the group hopes that audience members will view the series before viewing the play.

New Plastic Theatre is also hoping to bring the show on the road come fall. No plans have been set, but they hope to present “An Answer for the Unknown” in Eau Claire. New Plastic Theatre has just begun their journey. “We’re excited to move ahead and make an impact in the Twin Cities scene; we’ll be presenting another show very soon.” says Morris. He says that the next script is already in the works. “I’m hoping to use an empty commercial space to create an ‘inside the mind’ piece and pair with visual artists to create locations within the brain,” he says. The future of New Plastic Theatre looks interesting, at the very least, and puts a new filter on the theatre stage. 

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