“White Rabbit Red Rabbit” — an experimental play without a set, director or any rehearsals — will open to the public this weekend at Wild Goose Creative.
Each night, the play will be performed by a different actor — Adam Humphrey, Acacia Duncan and Brian Evans— from the Columbus-based theater company Available Light. Written in 2010, the play has been performed in more than 20 languages by several famous actors and celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg and Martin Short during its premiere in New York City.
Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, having refused mandatory military service, was not permitted to leave his country. In response, he wrote “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” as a means to express himself through borders.
“This is a play about censorship, about one’s voice and about whose voice you obey,” said Eleni Papaleonardos, artistic director at Available Light Theatre and visiting assistant professor of Theatre at Denison University.
Founded in 2006, Papaleonardos said Available Light Theatre is a fellowship of artists who create joyful and profound theater by serving its community.
Papaleonardos said no one besides himself knows more about what the play is actually about because the actors are not allowed to read the play ahead of time — its concept relies on ambiguity.
An actor can only perform the play once. Papaleonardos said she was the only one in the theater company to have previously read the script. She said she was lucky to be surrounded by actors who trusted her judgement when she told them they had to perform this play.
“It is a very unique experience when the audience and actor hear the story in the same moment,” Papaleonardos said.
Papaleonardos said this play requires someone who is attracted to what scares them — this being main reason why several actors refused her offer.
“I asked [actors] if they were interested in taking a risk,” she said. “I asked people who I thought were courageous and compassionate and curious.”
A list of basic instructions informing the actors that they must bring a bottle of water, say all the words out loud and “once you perform, you may not stop,” will be sent out 48 hours in advance. The night of the show, the actors will receive the script in a sealed envelope and open it on stage in front of the audience.
“I have no expectations, so it’s an amazingly free feeling because there’s nothing that I can do to prepare,” Acacia Duncan, member of Available Light Theatre and actress, said.
The actors are considered spokespeople of the playwright who did not get the chance to play it himself. Papaleonardos said the cold read that the actor gives creates a “membrane” between the playwright’s voice and the actor’s voice.
“We can watch the actor reconciling what is written on the page as he’s reading it,” she said.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit will be performed at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Wild Goose Creative, 2491 Summit St. Future shows with different actors are planned for December 6-9 at The Vanderelli Room and on February 8-9 at Denison University.
Admission is “pay as you want,” minimum $1, but $25 is suggested.