Clubbed Thumb produces a show by itself about once every other year, which is one of the many things that makes their upcoming production of Roadkill Confidential, by Shelia Callaghan, special. In a recent interview with the company's Artistic Director, Maria Striar, she explained that for technical and dramatic reasons, Roadkill Confidential needs to be produced apart from other shows, and not, for example, as part of the company’s notable, annual Summerworks festival. After four years of development, Clubbed Thumb is finally ready to present this “really theatrical play,” starting September 7th.
Clubbed Thumb began talking to Callaghan about working on a script in 2006, and in 2007 the company received a NYSCA grant to commission a play from Callaghan. Over the next four years, Clubbed Thumb hosted readings and workshops of Roadkill Confidential, all culminating in this production, which seeks to present the play as “the most dynmic but still cogent version of itself.” Striar explained that Roadkill Confidential is “not your average play-play.” It is not chronological, and it features video, music, and sculpture, each of which helps make “moments in the play become theatrical events.”
Clubbed Thumb began when the company's co-founders Striar and Meg MacCary desired to produce a play. They rented a space for four weeks, but because of equity showcase rules they could only do sixteen performances. After paying so much money for the theatre this seemed like a waste, so they decided to fill in the unused time with other shows and ended up doing two to three different performances every night of that month. Thus, the structure for their Summerworks Festival was born, and in effect, so was Clubbed Thumb. The festival, which is the heart of the company, became “more cultivated and curated” over the years. They zeroed in on exclusively producing new works, so readings and script development were naturally incorporated into the company’s mission. From there, Clubbed Thumb was able to get commission grants, and so they developed additional tools to meet this need.
As a new works company, Clubbed Thumb receives scripts in several ways. Writers are approached for commissions, and then open submissions are accepted biannually and evaluated. Clubbed Thumb also solicits scripts from literary agents, faculty at writing departments, connected artists, and literary managers from other companies. Striar admits, “literary managers of other theatres are one of the best resources.” According to Striar, Clubbed Thumb benefits from “stuff [literary managers] are excited about but [which] has relatively no chance of being done at their theatres.” On top of this, Clubbed Thumb has an open submission policy from which they garner two to three hundred scripts a year to read in addition to the two hundred they solicit. Obviously this is too much for Striar and Konopka to read alone, so they make sure that every script they can’t personally get to is read by two others at the theatre to give it the fairest chance.
Clubbed Thumb seeks “funny, strange, and provactive new plays by living American writers.” Additionally, they require three or more characters, a cast that is well-balanced between the genders, and scripts of around 90 minutes with no intermission.
The no intermission rule started because of the repertory tradition of their productions and because of the limitations of the facilities where Clubbed Thumb produces (small lobbies, limited bathrooms). But the concept has remained for aesthetic reasons. Striar believes that “one focused experience is more effective.” She expounds: “the work I’m most attracted to is not written in the standard two or three act structure, it doesn’t necessarily need a break.” Without an intermission, you can “be there together for that whole event, and then it’s over….Have the whole experience and then you can go out and talk about it, or be released from it.”
Striar continued: “Our work is…challenging, but it’s really accessible. Funny is the first word of our mission statement. We make theatre that should be delightful on some level….It’s short and it’s cheap. What’s not to like, really?” We couldn't agree more.
(Clubbed Thumb's newest offering, Roadkill Confidential, is written by Shelia Callaghan and directed by Kip Fagan. It plays September 7th through 28th at 3-Legged Dog, 80 Greenwich Street. Tickets are $25, or $18 for Students. For tickets and more information, visit clubbedthumb.org.)
Above photo is of Maria Striar. Photo by Heather Phelps-Lipton.