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The word on the wire

BY ISAAC HAMLET | FEBRUARY 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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Upon hearing the word “monologue,” it would not be unseemly for one to conjure images of overly dressed actors waltzing about on stage, throwing about “thee” and “thy,” managing to finish just as they plummet to the floor, dead. Yet the medium still flourishes in modern plays and film.

These isolated moments of dialogue from a single character may seem ultimately inconsequential at times, but they are often as plotted with as much care as the rest of the work. From time to time, a monologue can tell a story all on its own.

“A monologue is a very different animal than a play,” said Carrie Houchins-Witt, one of the many actors appearing in Riverside Theater’s Walking the Wire. “When you’re in a play with other actors, you feed off their energy. With a monologue, it’s just the actor and the audience.  The challenge of it, however, is what makes it fun.”

Walking the Wire is an annual event dedicated to allowing playwrights from across the country to display their ability in crafting such dialogue. The event will open at Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert St., at 7:30 p.m. Friday and will continue through March 9 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday performances. Admission ranges from $15 to $30.

Twelve monologues are featured in the show, with all sharing a single theme — merge.

“We’re free to interpret the theme however we want,” said Janet Schlapkohl, a playwright featured at Walking the Wire in years past. “Mine’s about a young man conquering social skills whose been merged with regular education.”

Generally the actors only meet with the director to discuss the needs of the role. But in some cases, the actor may have the opportunity to ask the playwright questions about their characters.

“[One of my pieces], ‘Recalculating,’ was written by Gwendolyn Rice from Wisconsin,” Houchins-Witt said. “I was lucky enough to perform one of her pieces last year. I did have a few questions about the monologue, and we emailed back and forth to give me some clarity.  It is very helpful to have access to the playwright, and I feel lucky to have her as a resource.”

Ultimately, when the actor takes the stage, the piece relies on the talents of a single person to convey the writer’s idea to the audience in the best way he or she can.

“My favorite part of performing in Walking the Wire is the surprise of it all,” said performer Kristen Behrendt. “[Each monologue] is really like a complete one-person play.”


Correction:

In the Feb. 27 article “The word on the wire,” The Daily Iowan incorrectly attributed several quotes, one to Jessica Wilson that was actually Carrie Houchins-Witt and another to Kristen Behrendt that was also Houchins-Witt. The DI also incorrectly wrote Behrendt said, "That's what I look forward to. Just standing there, and telling a story, and going for a ride with the audience." Also the statement, “The playwright and actor generally meet one another in preparation to discuss the needs of the role. This gives the actors a chance to ask the playwright any questions they might have about their characters” is incorrect because the actors usually only meet with the director. The DI regrets the errors.


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