All Play and No Work

Actors and audiences have a shaky relationship. If actors are going to work virtually for free, they occasionally want to venture outside the 1,000th production of Neil Simon to try their hand at Shakespeare or Ionesco. If theatergoers are going to shell out their hard-earned money for tickets, they want to see the reliable 1,000th production of Neil Simon, so long as it doesn't conflict with reruns of Murder She Wrote. And it's the audiences who hold the upper hand in these negotiations.

Like anyone else, the members of dos chicas theater commune would like people to come to their shows. They'd like them to line up down the sidewalk. They just aren't willing to do what it takes to lure them. Theater for them is more like masturbation. It's all about getting themselves off, and despite what your mother or priest might have told you, in this case, it's a rewarding experience: Since 1997, dos chicas has attracted just enough voyeurs for each show to fund their next project. (The budget is so shoestring that their light panel consists of a wooden board with dimmer switches.)

Husband-and-wife team Anne Zimmerman and Bob Morgan helped form the group after becoming bored with the same-old, same-old of community theater. With them in charge, rehearsal became a time to smoke, drink and have some fun. Now some of their actors refuse to perform anyplace else. For a time, Zimmerman and Morgan considered opening their own space and applying for nonprofit status, but when they saw all the forms they had to fill out, it smacked too much of work, so they scrapped the idea.

Lately, though, they've learned how to draw people in. "If we put graphic violence, nudity and blood in the flyers, people will come," Zimmerman says. They shamelessly promoted the nude scene in one play that turned out to be Morgan streaking across the stage in a strobe light. After doing the more inaccessible No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre and their own retooling of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, they've now decided to prostitute themselves with dos chicas Sell Out!, an idea admittedly ripped off from the Who album.

"We can't just go, 'We have five plays, come see this,' " Zimmerman says of the evening of darkly comic one-acts by Israel Horovitz, local Kyle Mercer and Morgan, the man. The best known slated one-act is probably Horovitz's Line, in which patrons jockey for position as they wait for some unspecified event. All of the plays promise to be a little weird. An associate, Paul Drake, gave dos chicas the idea of using product placement as a uniting theme -- despite the fact that no one gave them any money. Anytime a character grabs a beer or a bag of chips, they will blatantly display the label to the audience.

Using the upper floor of Helios means dos chicas has to attract only around 35 people to fill the seats, but this group is more interested in getting a reaction than a crowd anyway. The fact that these plays were put together purely for the purpose of self-fulfillment, however, does not mean the audience won't get something out of the experience. "If you like sitting around sipping beer and watching South Park," says Morgan, "you'll like our show."

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Dylan Otto Krider