Parkland Theatre’s production of ‘10 Out of 12’ reveals dramatic mundanity of theater

By Alexis Ramirez, Staff Writer

The Parkland Theatre’s faithful production of Anne Washburn’s “10 Out of 12” is probably unlike any play you’ve seen before.

Washburn’s slice of life comedy takes the audience behind the scenes of an all-day technical rehearsal. “10 Out of 12” draws humor and drama from years of her own production notes. The title is a reference to the Actors’ Equity Association’s rule that limits actors to 10 hours of work within a 12-hour period.

The show will resonate particularly with those who have lived through long and boring tech rehearsals. But those who have never participated in theater will enjoy it just the same.

“If you’re unfamiliar with theater, if you’ve never been in a production, it might be very jarring,” said Emma Petitt, a Champaign resident who played the lead role in the Parkland Theatre’s production of “She Kills Monsters.” “But once you lean into the ridiculousness of it all, it’s a super fun time. I think it’s a show you could see multiple times to take it all in.”

The narrative is appealing in the same way any cutthroat or stressful environment — think Wall Street, Washington, Silicon Valley, Hollywood or arts conservatory — is.

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Jargon, chaos and the tech crew are the true stars of the play, with actors often relegated to prop-status. The viewer’s attention, visual and auditory, must quickly dart around the space.

While Lights (Mariah Smith), the lighting technician, discusses the lighting options with the directors (Ed Pierce as The Director, Spencer Hazen as Assistant Director) and the Stage Manager (Zoë Dunn) across the room, the out-of-sight techies may be engaged in their own off-topic conversation via headsets.

Separate your vision from your hearing, your left ear from your right ear, to capture every bit of action. But don’t worry about following the plot, there hardly is one. The most important plot points happen in the interactions between Jake (Solomon Robinson), The Director and Ben (Matthew Green), as well as in Paula’s (Lindsey Markel) monologues.

The meta-actors’ brilliant talent is on full display during the few and far between uninterrupted scenes from the play within the “10 Out of 12.”

Markel’s delivery of Paula’s monologues is captivating; Ben, Signet, and other crew members fall silent during her speeches so as to cast an auditory spotlight on Paula.

Whether improvised by Spencer Hazen or a planned deviation from Washburn’s script, a hyper-contemporary line spoken by the character Assistant Director appeared to catch the audience by surprise.

“Have you guys done the Wordle today?” he asked a colleague as the crew exited the theater at the end of the play.

“10 Out of 12” does, however, suffer in its reluctance to adhere to the rule of three. The running joke of the show quickly falls flat.

The show employs some creative techniques to bend time. Lights cycling on and off, a record scratch sound and people walking across and behind the stage in all directions communicates the passing of time. The intermission aligns with a 15-minute break for the meta-actors and crew.

The Parkland College Theatre’s greatest strengths are the size of its theaters and its involvement with the Champaign-Urbana community.

The small size of the Second Stage allows the cast to easily envelop the space, creating a more immersive experience for the audience. The atmosphere at a “10 Out of 12” performance is casual; the energy is comparable to the opening night of a comedy movie when the audience erupts in laughter.

The venue only offers open seating; arrive early enough and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting the best seats in the house. If the options are more limited by the time you arrive, don’t worry. With only four rows of seating, there are no bad seats.

Community involvement is central to the Parkland Theatre’s productions. For “10 Out of 12,” it appears to have generated a more believable cast.

“Parkland has a very, very strong community-based theater,” said Chelsea Collier, Champaign resident and director of the Parkland Theatre’s upcoming production of “The SpongeBob Musical.” “They open their shows up to both students and just community members, anybody can audition.”

The cast of “10 Out of 12” features Parkland College students and alumni, as well as community members.

Four performances of “10 Out of 12” remain: 7:30 p.m. performances Thursday through Saturday and a 3 p.m. performance on Sunday. Purchase tickets and find other information about the show at the Parkland College website.

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