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‘Sadgrrl13’: Cyberspace whodunit in a theater space

Promo for "Sadgrll13"
Promo for “Sadgrll13”

To date, the online world of blogs, chat rooms and My Space pages has defied interpretation on stage and screen. Playwright Cory Hinkle hopes his new show, “Sadgrll13,” changes that.

The play, which opens Friday at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, examines what happens when a young girl disappears from suburbia and the only clues left behind are online posts.

“I was interested in the theatricality of what was going on,” Hinkle says of the play, which closes out the first season of the new Workhaus Playwrights’ Collective. “You are playing a role when you are going online, so I was interested in taking that and translating it and bringing the digital medium onstage.”

That interest in the online world merged with another recent phenomenon — the popular NBC “sting” program “To Catch a Predator.” “What I found interesting about that show is that it was simultaneously a piece of news, but also a piece of theater. They created this theatrical setup for the show.”

Of course, bringing the digital world to the stage isn’t an easy task. Anyone who has ever seen a show where characters sit hunched over computers while a voice-over provides text can attest to that. Patrons should be pleased to hear that there are no computers at all for the online segments. Instead, the stage has been divided into three segments — one is the TV newsroom, one is the living room, and the middle room is the online space.

“It’s a completely blank white room — and that’s where we ‘physicalize’ these online chats. The actors make different choices depending on how close they are to their own characters,” Hinkle says. “And they never talk directly to each other. They never interact in a realistic way.”

From there, “Sadgrll13” develops as a mystery, with pieces falling into place as the show progresses. In rehearsals, the performers “have been very game and they are up for the task. For the director (Jeremy Wihelm) and myself it has been an ongoing learning process — how to realize that part of the play.”

Spreading the word
As befitting a show about cyberspace, there’s even an online element — you can read My Space blogs from two of the play’s characters. In this case, the blogs were originally written by Hinkle and then taken over by the respective actors. That idea came as a way to market the play, but has grown from that. “It’s become character work for the actors,” Hinkle says.

And it helps to spread the word about the show.

“Honestly, I don’t know how people go to the theater anymore. How do they choose it? I think everyone is struggling with that. I’ve found that a lot of people have been following it online and think it’s cool. They can get into the online world and read it and interact with the experience. It gives them to have an extension on the (theatrical) experience.”

Spreading the word isn’t just about “Sadgrll13,” however. The Workhaus Playwrights’ Collective is a new company finishing its first season. As you might gather from the name, the company is centered on the member playwrights, who take turns producing their works.

Hinkle has been involved in the collective since the first talks started a few years ago. After attending graduate school out of state, he returned to participate in the company’s inaugural offerings. “It’s a collective of playwrights producing theater, which doesn’t often happen,” Hinkle says.

The collective part is important — the members take turns at different jobs. So, for “Sadgrll13,” Hinkle is the artistic director. This fall, he’ll shift to being the production manager for another play. All of that has been helpful. “I’ve had plays produced, but I’ve never had to grapple with the marketing side. It takes work to get people together to design a poster. There are all these things that, if you want a play to do well, take a lot of work and coordination.”

When: June 13-28
Where: The Playwrights’ Center, 2301 Franklin Ave. E., Minneapolis
Tickets: $8-15, sliding scale
Phone: 612-332-7481, Ext. 20

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