Single Shots turns three this year. The festival of one-person shows produced by Chris Anger, Alec Volz and Brian Hinds, known collectively as the Louisville Improvisors, is bringing four new original works to The Bard’s Town stage this weekend.
The four new productions feature some interesting titles. Take a look: “Brand Extension Strategy” by Zac Carman and Charity Bass Murphy; “The Harmfulness of Electronic Devices in the Theatre — A Tutorial” by John Tillotson; “Confessions of a Reformed Glory Hole Bandit” by Brian Walker; and “Terminal Buses Only” by Chris Anger.
Insider caught up with Improvisor Anger, as well as Brian Walker, one of the featured playwrights, to see how the festival gets put together each year and whether or not the show is growing up.
The main impetus for starting Single Shots was a one-person show written by Anger, which started out as an offering at the now-defunct Slant Culture Theatre Festival.
While there may have been a loose idea that the festival could turn into a yearly event, Anger says that wasn’t at the top of the Improvisors’ minds in the beginning.
“I don’t know that we thought that far ahead,” he says. “We thought it was a great idea. And going into everything we hope … but we’re glad it’s the third year. But it’s that whole cliché of take it one day at a time — one year at a time.”
One of this year’s scripts comes from a playwright who fans of the Louisville independent scene likely know, Brian Walker.
Walker has spent more than a decade fostering the playwright scene in Louisville. He’s written full-length plays that have been produced regularly, as well as 10-minute plays, and he started local initiatives like The Finnigan Festival and the Derby City Playwrights. But when Improvisor Hinds asked Walker to participate in Single Shots, he had to admit it would be a first for him.
“He contacted me in August and I said no, I’ve never written one,” recalls Walker. “I have a 10-minute that could be wanting to be a one-man show that I wrote several years ago, but I’ve never done anything with it.”
While Single Shots has drawn from a wide cross-section of Louisville writers, there isn’t an open submission process. For now, with only four new works a year, the Improvisors reach out to performers and writers they know to see if they’re interested in being a part of the festival.
So Hinds and Walker set a deadline — Sept. 1 of this year — and Walker got to work. What emerged was an hour-long, one-person show.
“I’ve never done it because I thought it would be really, really hard,” says Walker. “It’s not 100 percent autobiographical, but there are a lot of elements and a lot of riffs off who I am. I sort of let myself, the first time through, go free-form and just write.”
The result is “Confessions of a Reformed Glory Hole Bandit,” a raunchy reflection from a fictional recovering sex addict.
“It’s really nasty — it’s very definitely an adult play,” explains Walker. “It’s about a sex addict who has been in a monogamous relationship for some time, and the wheels have come off for whatever reason and he’s having a relapse. So we find him in an adult bookstore.”
As a motivating force in the Louisville playwright scene beyond his own work, Walker is excited that Single Shots exists.
“I’m so grateful to Brian and Louisville Improvisors for challenging me to do it,” he says. “And when I submitted it to them, I said I’m just really grateful you got this out of my head, and if it’s too dirty or you don’t want to do it, I totally understand.”
But, of course, they are doing it. “Confessions” is directed by Hinds and features actor Ryan Watson, a mainstay at The Bard’s Town.
Anger has produced new work every year of the festival, which always has been produced by fellow Improvisor Volz. Anger says this year is slightly less structured than pieces he’s produced in the past.
“Alec Volz said, ‘You should do a show about music, because I love music, I play music, most of my jobs were in record stores, my dad was in music,’” says Anger.
That turned out to be too broad of a subject, so Volz suggested Anger narrow it down.
“He said, ‘OK, how about this: Grab 10 records …’ So I grabbed 10 records that mean something to me. It’s about listening to music and growing up around it,” Anger says.
Anger and Walker’s plays are joined by two others.
“The Harmfulness of Electronic Devices in the Theatre” is the first Single Shot by a non-Lousivillian, a first for the festival. The play is loosely inspired by a work from theatrical master Anton Chekhov.
The last offering is an interesting creation, an example of what might happen when two different ends of our local creative scene overlap. The Improvisors approached Gracie Taylor, one of the driving forces behind local sketch comedy show “Sketchy Stuff.”
“We know Gracie (Taylor) because we’ve worked with her, and she’s doing all that sketch stuff, so we thought, well, maybe she has a 10- or 15-minute solo piece,” says Anger.
The result is “Brand Extension Strategy,” a collaboration between three “Sketchy Stuff” artists — written by Zac Carman and Charity Bass Murphy, performed by Taylor.
Anger stresses that “Extension” isn’t a sketch but a fully drawn story. Still, hopefully it will bring some off-the-wall humor to the table.
Single Shots runs Friday and Saturday, Nov. 24-25, at The Bard’s Town, 1801 Bardstown Road. All four shows play each night, divided into two shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., but the lineup changes, so double check to make sure you’re seeing the show you want to see.
Tickets are $15 per show, or $25 for a full evening pass.