Out of the Hat 3 at Renegade

Eight writers, eight directors and a group of actors come together to produce a series of 10-minute plays in 24 hours. This is the basis for the Out of the Hat Plays 3 held at the Renegade Center for the Arts this weekend.

Eight writers, eight directors and a group of actors come together to produce a series of 10-minute plays in 24 hours. This is the basis for the Out of the Hat Plays 3 held at the Renegade Center for the Arts this weekend.

Here is the basic idea: On Thursday, June 3, the writers will draw at random from a hat full of brainstormed ideas including the who, what and where that they must use to write their plays. The results could be something like a massage therapist with peanut butter at an airport or Gary Doty at a high school reunion at the NorShor. They will also learn who their cast members will be. The writers will have until 9 a.m. Friday when they all meet. The directors and actors have until the 7 p.m. performance to pull it all together.

After the performance on Friday, with the audience watching, the writers draw from new ideas and prepare to do it all again for Saturday.

Brian Matuszak, executive director of the Renegade Comedy Theatre, has described the Out of the Hat Plays as "rehearsed improvisation."

A friend from Milwaukee introduced him to the idea for the plays, but theater companies all over the country, from Los Angeles to New York City, do similar performances.


The first two Out of the Hat Plays were held in December and May of last year. For the third time around most things are staying the same, but Matuszak said that they wanted to do something different.

"We don't want to change it too much because people like it," he said. Again taking the lead of other theater companies throughout the nation, he came up with the idea of incorporating an opening line.

The opening line idea also comes from a skit done in the Renegade Comedy Olympics called "Blind line." Audience members write down lines such as "I'll get you my pretty and your little dog, too." The actors must incorporate that line into a skit and justify its use. In the Out of the Hat Plays, the line must open the play.

"It will be fun to see them justify the lines," he said.

Writers, actors and directors come from Renegade Comedy Theatre; Colder by the Lake; the Duluth Playhouse; Change of Pace Productions; the theater departments at the College of St. Scholastica, the University of Minnesota Duluth and the University of Wisconsin Superior; and from the local community.

Most participants are from the Duluth area, but this year Gregg Gasman from Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemidji will participate. He originally contacted Renegade because he was experimenting with condensed rehearsal times for plays, perfect for the Out of the Hat Plays.

"One of the neat things is all these different artists get to collaborate who usually wouldn't work together," said Matuszak.

Many former participants are back again this time around including City Councilor and Renegade board member Donnie Ness. Fellow Duluth City Councilor and Renegade board member Roger Reinert will also write this year. "It's fun to get our board involved," said Matuszak.


There are many new actors, and Matuszak will also act this time. In December he wrote and in May he produced. "I just think it will be fun to learn all these lines in 12 hours," he said with a laugh. "To me it looks like the most fun.

"That's the beautiful thing about Out of the Hat. People see what they can do." Matuszak said some people decide that they don't like it. "The neat thing is it gets people to try it. More often than not people find out that they can do it."

Some who acted in the past will try directing this time.

They had trouble filling the acting positions in December but had more for the plays in May. This time they have 23 actors for Friday and over 30 for Saturday.

Matuszak said that he would like to see the production move to other venues to draw different audiences. He originally wanted to have it at the NorShor but was unable to because of a scheduling conflict.

Pizza Luce will provide a banquet on Thursday for the kick off to Out of the Hat Plays 3 where all participants will meet and prepare for the performances.

Last time during the kick off the veterans gave tips to the first-timers about what they should expect. "That was neat to see that happening, even the second time through," said Matuszak.

Pizza Luce will also provide food throughout the event for writers, directors and actors because, as Matuszak pointed out, they sometimes get so busy that they forget to eat. Lines must be memorized, sets, props and costumes must be found and put together, and there must be time left to practice.


The cost is $10 per night or $15 for both nights. Performances take place at 7 p.m. at the Renegade Center for the Arts, 404 W. Superior St. As a Renegade special feature, no ticket specials or discounts will apply. For more information or to make reservations, call 722-6775.

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