Explore new theater every week in February

Ross Beschler in Expired
Ross Beschler in “Expired.”

We are spending a lot of the day inside at this time, so why not fill our downtime with new theater? Well, if you were wishing to do just that, one local arts organization has just what you need to fill the void of closed curtains and empty stages. 

The Wilma Theater recently announced that its acclaimed acting company will be releasing four HotHouse Shorts during the month of February. According to the release, these shorts are as varied in style as they are in content, reflecting the diversity of passions and variety of talents among its local Philadelphia artists. Wilma HotHouse Shorts are free to anyone who registers, though donations are encouraged to support Wilma artists and their ongoing work.

Jaylene Clark Owens in “Code Black Planet.” Provided

“It’s amazing to see how aesthetically and stylistically distinct these first four HotHouse Shorts are,” said Yury Urnov, the Wilma’s Lead Artistic Director for the 2020-21 Season in a statement. “At the same time, there are thematic parallels that connect them: loneliness and separation, history and heritage, and racial and social injustice. I strongly encourage you to experience all four pieces.”

Wilma’s HotHouse program is a five-year-old resident artist company that trains together and incubates new work, something that is also unique in the artistic world. The shorts are directly from the artists who have been working on the innovative program, and the format will each performance will change in structure, format and content, to help keep the lineup interesting. 

The first, “Code Black,” will feature HotHouse Company members Anthony Martinez-Briggs, Brandon J. Pierce, and Jaylene Clark Owens.

The show is described as having audiences explore secret transmissions from a Black Planet as well as kaleidoscopic correspondences that cinematically mix spoken word, music, sketch comedy and more. The cosmically driven show will premiere Friday, Feb. 5, and will have an open run. The next show, “Clay,” will be performed by HotHouse Company members Brett Ashley Robinson, Brandon J. Pierce, and Jered McLenigan. Audiences can, according to the release, brew a warm cup of tea and listen to these intriguing audio tales, which intertwine to tell the surprisingly poignant story of one everyday object. “Clay” will be available to the public from Friday, Feb. 12 through Sunday, March 7. 

Melanye Finister in “The Lagniappe Project.” Provided

The next two shows “Expired” and “The Lagniappe Project” will premiere in the last two weeks of February. The first is described as a deep dive into a cyberspace underworld through an interactive website, which is filled with demons, both classical and contemporary, lurking among the virtual artifacts, waiting to be purged. “Expired” stars HotHouse Company members Ross Beschler, Suli Holum, Matteo Scammell, and Lindsay Smiling and will be available to the public on Friday, Feb. 19, for an open-ended run. The latter show is a documentary “feast” where HotHouse Company member Melanye Finister shares her mother’s recipe for Creole gumbo with residents from Northern Children’s Services, attempting to find community and comfort. “The Lagniappe Project” will be available to the public on Friday, Feb. 26 for an open-ended run. 

According to the release, WilmaPass holders will be able to access the new HotHouse shorts five days before the general public. These productions will be free with online registration, though The Wilma greatly appreciates any generous donations audience members would be willing to make to support their HotHouse Company and the theater’s ongoing work.

For more information, visit wilmatheater.org.