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Rose Villa residents in senior-living community to perform in free 'Wit Bites' June 29

The public is invited to enjoy a collection of short plays that will amuse and perhaps terrify in equal doses when "Wit Bites: Student Readings of Dark Comedies" takes the stage at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at Rose Villa Performing Arts Center.

PHOTO BY KAREN HUDSON-BROWN - Wit Bites director Matt Haynes (right) leads cast members in vocal exercises, from left: Julia Layden, Evelyn Cole, Nancy Barrett-Dennehy and Sue Griifin. Although all the performers are residents of Rose Villa, a senior community in Oak Grove, audiences will see "maturity thrown to the wind with tales of a navel-gazing zombie, a wholesome mafia mother, a fridge mooch marked for death, and more," said Matt Haynes, who directed the production.

Haynes also is the artistic director of The Pulp Stage, a theater group that presents live storytelling for fans of science fiction, fantasy and suspense.

Reader's theater is what The Pulp Stage specializes in, but with a difference.

"Reading a play is nothing new, but in this case the plays are deliberately formatted to give you a full-on theatre experience ... using just the words," Haynes said. "We plunge you into the action and reveal the world you're in, bit by bit."

Haynes noted that the theme of the evening is dark comedy, and each of the pieces will have some kind of "terrifying or mortifying subject matter that becomes hilarious when you have a certain distance from it."

Students at Rose Villa

Haynes said he wanted to work with residents at Rose Villa because The Pulp Stage has been well received there in the past, when the group performed with the company's professional actors.

"Our reader's theater format is particularly helpful for people who are just starting out; are well-seasoned, but have a hard time getting cast in roles due to their age; are working with limited strength or mobility; and have limited memory capacity," he said.

Senior communities have residents who fit all the above demographics, so Haynes and company decided to offer a class and performance opportunity at Rose Villa.

Because this was a new program, Haynes said the biggest challenge was getting the word out about the class, and explaining what it was all about.

"My strategy was to make my face as familiar to the residents as I could. I shared info about the class at a monthly open mic that takes place in Rose Villa's Performing Arts Center, one time reading a sample piece with a resident from Willamette View," he said.

As he chatted with residents, many responded that this was not their thing, but Haynes thinks that might change when they see their peers in performance with a supportive audience.

The experience has been rewarding, Haynes said, especially seeing his students "light up with the material."

In turn, the Rose Villa residents bring "new character voices (and) new emotional responses to different parts of the stories, and it's very exciting to see the stories in a senior context," Haynes said. "Some of the stories take on an even more fierce edge, which I wasn't expecting. I think audiences are in for a titillating theater experience."

Haynes hopes the community will come out to see the free performance Saturday, June 29, adding that the play reading will "refresh you and just might inspire you. It kinda messes with your head (and) you'll kinda love it."

If you go

What: The Pulp Stage presents "Wit Bites: Student Readings of Dark Comedies"

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, June 29

Where: Rose Villa Performing Arts Center, 13505 S.E. River Road, Oak Grove

More: This performance, by residents of Rose Villa, is free. The short plays include: "Dead Guy Walking," by Brian K. Lowe; "Criminalogues," by Matt Haynes; "Meeting Gloria," by Adam Seidel; and "Just Desserts," by David MacGregor.

The Pulp Stage

The Pulp Stage is a theater company "offering easy tools for staging and savoring live theater, crafting our scripts so that they only need to be read out loud in order to rivet you," said Matt Haynes, founder and artistic director.

Actors read from scripts on small tablets using only their voices to convey the setting and characters, so they do not need to wrangle heavy props or memorize lines.

The format also makes it possible for performers to lead busy lives and rehearse only six hours for a production, instead of night after night for weeks.

The company regularly tours, and this summer will present a series of plays written by company member John Marks.

"He's created a supernatural comedy taking place in a hotel that has multiple portals to hell. The harried young hotel owner is caught trying to keep his business afloat while also handling the infestations of evil that keep wanting to spread," Haynes said.

"The series is called 'That Damned Hotel,' and we have six episodes of about 15 minutes each," he said.

"We're going to tour the series around live and then record it for The Pulp Stage's very first podcast program, which will be released around Halloween."

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