When Adam Overley first pitched the idea for a 24-hour theater festival to Teatro Serpiente, no one had any idea what would come of it. Was this the kind of event that only worked in college? Would anyone even come out to watch? How many playwrights would insist on nude scenes? But Teatro, eager to bring a new theatrical project to Taos, jumped in feet first — and fell into a goldmine.
This summer’s Gorilla Theater Festival brought together seven local playwrights and nearly twenty local actors. It was technically a 32-hour festival (because, sleep) — the playwrights had 24 hours (11am Friday – 11am Saturday) to craft a 10-minute-ish short play, which was then handed off to a small group of actors for 8 hours of rehearsal. At 7:30 Saturday night, the first-annual Gorilla Theater Festival played to a packed house at Taos Mesa Brewing. Sure, it wasn’t all Broadway-bound hit material, but the sheer novelty of seeing brand-new live theater, performed by friends and neighbors, in a bar, with beer and hollering, was a blast.
The performers and writers enjoyed the process so much that Teatro decided to extrapolate the festival into an ongoing, monthly, live sitcom, and thus Gorilla Romance was born. 6 brave actors — Adam Overley, Rich Greywolf, Scott Tennant, Gina Gargone, Roe Zicarello, and Elena Trujillo — volunteered to play the main characters. Local writer Steph Bailey was coerced into penning the first script, which introduced us to the “Taos Six,” each one a familiar Taos archetype: the cocktail waitress, the river guide, the metaphysic, the cynic, the man-child, and the ever-popular “new girl” in town (played by Elena Trujillo, somewhat ironically, as she is the only Taos native of the bunch). Subsequent writers were Ned Dougherty (who became the project’s head writer after he wrote a masterful Episode 2), and Danny Kovacs (ep. 3).
Next Wednesday night, November 27 (yes, that’s the night before Thanksgiving — and now you have something to do with all your out-of-town relatives, so, you’re welcome), will be Episode Four, written by Alfred Finelli (a Taos transplant, who actually had a career writing for real television before he got roped into this little project). If you haven’t caught the previous episodes, it’s all good — you’ll get a brief recap at the beginning, and then you’ll catch up quickly enough.
The general tenor of Gorilla Romance is to poke loving fun at Taos stereotypes — taking shots at those people, careers, and events that make you say “Ah yes . . . only in Taos.” There’s a particular kind of catharsis that comes from laughing at ourselves in this way, and the return audiences are a clear indication that Gorilla Romance is feeding that need. From Joseph the Starwatcher to vegan gluten-free potlucks to Rick Romancito to past-life regression to hangover recovery outside of the World Cup, you’ll recognize lots of things you love (and love to hate) about life in Taos. Also, did I mention that there’s beer?
One of the more creative elements of each episode is the inclusion of live commercial breaks. Local businesses can approach Teatro to purchase a space in the show, at which point Teatro company members write a brief and comical commercial promoting the product, service, event, or what have you. Check out this original ad for Damdalicious Dressing, made by Mandy Stapleford right here in Taos (and, in the spirit of live theater, the lights go out right around 1:50 — don’t worry, they recover nicely):
Their 2014 theatrical season will include Parallel Lives (January/February), Measure for Measure (their annual summer Shakespeare, in June), and Moon Over Buffalo (in October); plus the ongoing Gorilla Romances, a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 32-Hour Gorilla Theater Festival, and more special events.
We leave you with these charming Gorilla Romance photostrips; photographs by Cisco Velarde, design and copy by Julie Tennant.
Gorilla Romance: Episode 4
Wednesday, November 27, 7:30pm
Taos Mesa Brewing