FRINGE: Alien Finds A Home

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Lynda Houk

Las Vegas, Nevada is not considered the theatrical capital of the world.  Slot machines, pole dancers and $3.99 steak dinners certainly left a lot to the imagination, especially for a young girl in the 80’s.

Fortunately, my high school, like most any other in America, put on theatrical productions.  And by joining the cast, I was bit by the bug.  The thought of taking money from hard-working people as a Las Vegas dealer was a sensibility that never occurred to me.  And, at the age of 18, I ended up on a Greyhound bus, a train and a subway that left me at Penn Station.

It was in New York City that I literally ran from the shysters, drug dealers and pimps.  The big city could smell my naivete.  I had been accepted into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. During my time there, I produced five plays, performed in almost 30, and relentlessly studied with my mentor Tony Greco.  When the crime and stress of the city had finally taken its toll, I knew it was time to head back West to be near my family.  Hollywood, here I come!

I soon discovered that virtually every actor and actress was talking television and film.  When I brought up theater, they would either laugh or look at me like I was from Vegas.  For them I was an alien living in outer space.  Well, if I was a mutant then it was only honest that my voice and vision could be outside the norm.

Natalie Compagno & Patrick Saxon

Fortunately, I was not alone.  My most precious memories from New York were Richard Foreman’s experimental works.  I wasn’t the only alien on planet earth. And, if my sensibilities were indeed from outer space, why not create a character who lives in outer space?  Thus, Rheeta In Space was born.  Rheeta is a story of a girl who’s 764 years old and living on the planet Zar, where it never rains and nothing ever changes.  Her dream is to travel and explore other planets in the hopes of finding the true meaning of existence.  Her best friend Cow, Robot Bob, and Intercom serve as her supportive companions.   But her mother and father won’t let her go.

After my first draft of Rheeta In Space, I knew that no traditional theater sources would be interested. But, fortunately there was the Fringe!  An environment that encourages risky, experimental and unusual work.  Thank goodness. Or, as Rheeta’s best friend Cow would say, “Moo, moo-moo.”

While workshopping I struggled through the process of re-writes and conceptual changes.  Fortunately my Las Vegas roots came to the rescue.  My childhood friend and a musical genius, Dave Bernson, somehow took my words and thoughts and transformed them into a musical score.   A 764-year-old Girl Living on Zar needed original lyrics and music.  From there a cast and creative forces were put together.  My director, Kara M. Tyler, took the words off the page and brilliantly put them together.  I fought, she fought.  I relented, she relented.  Magical elements of the show, like costumes, arose.  A futuristic set was built and multi-media projections were installed.  Rheeta was going viral!

David Gueriera

Of course there’s virtually no free rehearsal space in LA, so getting a cast of 10 people (Lindsey Stakoe, Laura Covelli, Cynthia Beckert, Patrick Saxon, Erin Parks, Natalie Compagno, David Gueriera, Kelly Schumann, Justin Dray, and myself) who live from Venice Beach to Echo Park to rehearse in my apartment or any place we could wrangle was a minor miracle.   But by entering the Fringe, Rheeta came to life.   I can’t say I don’t feel like an alien still, but I certainly feel closer to home through Rheeta and this play.

Rheeta In Space won’t be playing on Planet Zar but it will be showing at the Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Saturday, June 11 and Thursday, June 16, 8 pm; Sunday, June 19, 2 pm; Wednesday, June 22 and Saturday, June 25, 8 pm. All performances are $15. For tickets: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/332

Lynde Houck wrote and produced A Hint of Romance in the Republic, which was well received within the local Venice theater community.  Her most recent play Rheeta In Space is an experimental multimedia dark comedy with original music (but not a musical).  Lynde is currently working on Jesus Saves, a drama about the farmers’ recession in 1980s Iowa, and a conceptual dance, music, and poetic performance with Collette Brandenburg, about God’s tenacious efforts to put up a barrier between himself and humanity.

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Lynde Houck

Lynde Houck