Three roommates in their 20s are going to learn about a very different kind of reality in Birdhouse Theatre’s first official production to take to its brand-new stage.
“Leveling Up” will be presented to the public at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday in the expanded theatre space inside/adjacent to Blackbird Coffee. The theatre opened in early February.
The theatre and the productions coming to it are part of the shared vision between Blackbird owners Jimmy and Iona Holder.
“It’s amazing,” Iona Holder said when asked how it feels to officially open the curtains in the new space. “I’m so excited to share our vision because we’ve been working on the theatre for over a year now, so everybody gets to see what we've been talking about this whole time.”
Holder is in the director’s chair for “Leveling Up,” a 90-minute play written by Deborah Zoe Laufer that follows three 20-something roommates glued to their video games in their Las Vegas basement. One gamer excels so much that he lands a job with the National Security Agency launching actual drones and missile strikes — turning a fun hobby among friends into a heavy burden with real-world consequences.
“I read a lot of plays,” Iona Holder said on why she chose this work. “I found this one and thought it was an interesting premise. I was looking for something relevant that people could connect to and find exciting. I think this really hits the spot. We’re talking about drone missile strikes in the news today, so the reality is even though this play is set in 2011, I think people can relate to it. It’s quick, smart and funny. There are a lot of gamers out there that live in their own world. It’s fascinating.”
Birdhouse Theatre’s first official production heralds the direction the theatre will take moving forward in bringing a focus to recently-created works.
“I feel like we have a lot of great theatre around here, and a lot of times people sort of have their old standards and work on classics,” Iona Holder said. “Although I appreciate that, I really think there’s room for new work and I'd much prefer new work because I'd rather do something that nobody around here has seen yet. I think there are a lot of fantastic current, living playwrights that have something important to say.”
The play stars Allison Esposito, Evan Fields, Jordan Hale and John Underwood — all Georgia College graduates that worked with Holder when they attended college. Iona’s husband Jimmy designed the soundscape featured throughout the show that includes many songs by a band with local ties, Stokeswood.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased in advance at Blackbird Coffee downtown or at Birdhouse Theatre leading up to the show. The new theatre space sits right around 100 people.
After this weekend’s production Birdhouse’s next big endeavor will be EDGE fest, an annual contest consisting of 10-minute play entries submitted from all over the world. They will be produced by Birdhouse Memorial Day Weekend and winners (judges’ choice and audience choice) will receive $100. Holder said she has received well over 100 submissions and is in the process of narrowing them down. Once finalists are chosen, casting will begin soon after, and she is hoping to find some local talent to put on display.
“I think theatre's important because it has the power to inform, connect, and cultivate compassion,” Holder said. “That’s why I do it — because I think we could all use a little more compassion.”