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Imagine a New York City subway car hurtling down a track at breakneck speed in early morning darkness. A writer observes a homeless man taking off well-worn tennis shoes to cool his feet, careful not to let his feet touch the subway floor.
Welcome to “The A-Train Plays” — sometimes called the “fast plays,” as they are written from everyday source material gathered from observations of scenarios that happen on New York City’s longest subway train.
The A-Train stretches from upper Manhattan to the beaches of Far Rockaway on Long Island. In the time it takes to travel from one end of the island and back, a one act play is written and performance time is also limited to that same small moment of time.
And now seven of those stories are rumbling in to the black box station at Riverwalk Theatre.
Director Doak Bloss, himself a veteran actor of 70 productions stretching all the way back to a 1976, has assembled a seasoned cast of young actors — mostly alumni from the Lansing Community College theater program — to replicate this A-Train experience. Featured actors and actresses include Heath Sartorius, Cassie Little, Jesse Frawley, Anasti Her and Ndegwa McCloud.
“What is most unique about these plays, is not just the mechanics of the plays, how they were conceived and produced, but rather that they are heart-felt metaphors for life experiences that can happen in a myriad of everyday, ordinary places,” Bloss said.
“The subway represents life as a series of unpredictable encounters, in which one person attempts to connect with another or flees from the opportunity because of previously failed relationships, because of the pain entailed,” he added.
Bloss helps his actors prepare for their roles with three pages of upfront director’s notes in which he shares these thoughts.
“I see the theme of these plays as life being a struggle to connect with someone authentically despite the limits of learned separateness,” Bloss said. “Touch, autonomy, obligation and celebrity, are some of the aspects of this theme.”
Bloss has called in shape-shifting scenic designer Jeff Boerger to create a minimalistic set that captures a sense of the dark underbelly of Manhattan.
“The A-Train Plays”
$12 General Admission, Feb. 14-17, 21-24 Riverwalk Theatre 228 Museum Drive, Lansing (517) 482-5700 www.riverwalktheatre.com