Having spent the year as enthusiastic audience members, members of the Friends of Chautauqua Theater will take their turn in the spotlight this weekend.
At 10 a.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, members of the Chautauqua Play Readers, an FCT subgroup, will present their annual performance as a series of selected shorts from writers Shel Silverstein, David Ives and James Thurber, as well as comedic duo Abbott and Costello.
The event, titled “A Carnival of Shorts,” will feature six different short plays read by members of FCT and guest comedian Mark Russell. Director and FCT member Bob McClure said he chose to switch from reading a single play — which has been done in previous years — to allow audiences to enjoy the show at their leisure.
“In past years, for one reason or another, people often have to leave early,” McClure said. “With these shorts, people can watch however much they want to and go about their days if the need arises.”
Regardless of how many of the shorts audiences are able to attend, McClure said the event promises lots of laughs across the board.
“People can expect a huge amount of laughing,” McClure said. “It’s one hysterical joke after another. Even done by amateurs, the comedy shines through.”
Garbage Bags, by Silverstein, follows the unexpected chaos that descends on the world after a teenage girl decides not to take out the trash. No Dogs Allowed, also by Silverstein, centers on the obscene confrontation between a customer at a spa and the spa’s manager.
Ives’ Words, Words, Words and Sure Thing see three chimpanzees locked in a lab under the hypothesis that one will eventually write Hamlet, and the roundabout interaction between two would-be lovers in a coffee shop, respectively.
Pet Department, by Thurber, features a veterinary television program that responds to bizarre questions about a bevy of ridiculous pets, and Abbott and Costello’s classic “Who’s On First” treats audiences to a raucous, word-bending back-and-forth about baseball.
Of all the skits, McClure said he’s particularly fond of “Who’s On First.”
“As I’m working on getting this show set up on the stage, I’m just falling out of my chair laughing,” McClure said. “This 50-, 60-, 70-year-old thing is just absolutely, fall-down hysterical.”
Each short will feature some amount of costumes, props and set design to help bring audiences into the shows. Although the Play Readers aren’t able to create a fully fledged set, McClure is confident that Chautauquans won’t want for engagement.
“We have plenty of things to make these scenes and characters really pop,” McClure said.
Although the event is free to attend, FCT will be accepting donations to help support Chautauqua Theater Company. Funding raised from the play reading will go directly toward funding the commission of CTC’s next New Play Workshop.
“Seeing money and support go towards (the NPW) is just terrific,” McClure said. “We’re glad to be able to support the theater and have fun doing it.”