All the bar’s a stage

Photo by Adam Penney

What do you do when you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go? In the case of Ahrm’s Way Theatre, you hit the pubs.

Dave Sullivan catches their production of Hardball.

Here’s the situation: two guys want to produce a play, but have nowhere to perform it because of a rash of theatre renovations and back-ups in rentals.

Then, one night while carousing at The Ship, a great light shines on them both and a voice speaks from the heavens, saying, “look no further by’s, for you have already found what you are searching for.”

Divine intervention—at The Ship no less.

“We were trying to make the best of a bad situation and ended up coming up with a concept that was probably better than our original idea. How does the saying go? ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, or something like that.”

That’s Adam Hickey talking about the unique placement of Ahrm’s Way Theatre’s sophomore production of Hardball.

Hickey co-founded this up-and-coming theatre company with local actor/director Ross Moore. The two launched their company last April with their production of Stephen Belber’s Tape at The Rabbittown Theatre. It’s a a play centered around sexuality and human relationships.

The two are not treading far from their comfort zone in terms of content. Hardball examines some of the same themes on relationships and sexuality as Tape did—the only difference here is it’s funny. And you’re probably drinking.

Hardball is comprised of two one-act plays spawned by the incredibly diverse mind of Allan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under).

“Bachelor Holiday is very much grounded in reality with characters we all know from our own lives, and traits we can all admit to posessing at one time or another, whether we like it or not,” Hickey says.

“The other, Power Lunch, is an absolutely absurd satire on relationships and gender roles in society,” he says. “But in each of these plays there are moments of resounding truth to be found in between the laughs.”

It has often been difficult to find appropriate alternative venues for theatre in St. John’s—partly because bar owners are reluctant to close their doors for two hours at a time, and partly because theatre-goers in St. John’s are not accustomed to watching theatre in a bar.

People in a bar have a tendency to chatter and carry out conversations as if they were in—you guessed it—a bar.

“The Ship has been great… they were all about the idea from the start,” mentions Moore. “I can’t really think of any other bars in town that would be as willing and accommodating to try something different like this.”

Another fear of alternative venues focuses is about the audience. “…Will they get it if we put King Lear in space, or Love’s Labour’s Lost in a women’s prison?”

The same fears exist with performing theatre in a bar setting. Because an audience is familiar with the bar and not with the play (most of the time) the audience tends to put more emphasis on being in a bar and not preparing to watch a play. Which can lead to myriad problems.

“One stigma we were trying to avoid when first talking about the show was an association with dinner theatre,” grumbles Moore. “Not that there’s anything wrong with dinner theatre, but let’s face it, dinner theatre has been done to death in this town.”

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Hardball is not where it’s located, but rather what happens once the plays are finished.

Each night, after every performance, there is a musical act to follow: Texas Chainsaw and Ye-Yeti (Friday), Idlers (Saturday), and Sherry Ryan and The Domestics (Sunday) cover the playbill for the three night run. Teaming up with these acts can be attributed to Adam Hickey’s involvement in the music scene. (Hickey is a former member of the now-defunct Nordic Beat, a group of fine young men in really tight jeans.)

“More then anything we just want to put off a good show and have people come out and enjoy themselves,” says Hickey.

“Beyond that we hope we might be able to send a message to other artists that you can turn any negative into a positive. Even if you have no funding or no space, don’t let that stop you. You can still do it. ”

Hardball: A Weekend of Theatre & Music: Bachelor Holiday & Power Lunch: Two 1-act plays by Alan Ball; Music w/ Texas Chainsaw & Ye-Yeti (Fri); Idlers (Sat); Sherry Ryan, Les Domestics (Sun), $15/$18, The Ship (Fri Nov 28 & Sat Nov 29 at 9:30pm / Sun Nov 30 at 7pm)