“Fifty bats. Five plays. $10 tickets. Three survivors. One free beer,” reads the tagline for “Serials,” The Flea Theater’s ongoing summer theater competition.
Stephen Stout and Dominic Spillane created “Serials,” which is now in its third run, last fall. The creators got their start as Bats —members of The Flea’s resident acting company.
In “Serials,” five teams of Bats perform 10 minute episodic plays written by a guest playwright and directed by a visiting resident director. The audience then votes for its three favorite plays. At the end of the week — the plays run Thursday, Friday and Saturday — the audiences’ votes are tallied and the top three teams create a new episode for the next week. The two losing teams go back to the drawing board and dream up a new series. “Serials” runs in two three-week sessions, Jul. 14-30 and Aug. 11-20.
The creators say the show’s format draws equal influence from the groundbreaking theatrical improvisation movements of the 1980s, their addiction to television and the low-budget model that The Flea is known for.
“Part of the spirit and excitement of the show is that it’s put together in a week with no budget so it’s all up to the talent and charisma of the actors and the skill of the writers,” said Spillane.
Beyond the joy of yaying or naying slightly unhinged works by the likes of “Too Little Too Late” writer Lucy Alibar and “Generation Kill’s” Josh Barret, audience members receive a free beer courtesy of sponsor Six Point Brewery, which can be enjoyed during intermission while various bands perform — a nod, Spillane admitted, to Saturday Night Live.
Still confused? The creators believe the production’s anarchic and perplexing nature is part of the fun, but insist that newcomers will get as much out of it as recurring audience members.
“We have a core group of people coming to every show but the majority of our audience is new week-to-week. We have to honor its episodic nature and satisfy a new audience member. The stories that make it five or six episodes honor that nature best,” said Stout.