He stood across from me. Looking over me, instead of at me. Words spilling out of his mouth a mile a minute. On and on he rambled about society’s love of all things fake and false. Disgusting liars, we are! Hypocrites! Women flirting with multiple men but loathing all of them. Men complimenting you while they simultaneously stab a knife in your back. We should all be ashamed. Instead of false compliments, we should speak our minds! Spare no one! He is angry because he chooses to be. And he “hates human nature with a dreadful hatred.” I raised an eyebrow, took a sip of my drink, and laughed, loudly. I was absolutely delighted!
His name is Oliver (“Oli”) Robinson. And (luckily) I wasn’t on a date. I was in Georgetown, picnicking in the gardens of the Dumbarton House, watching Oli play the role of Alceste in The Picnic Theatre Company’s performance of “The Misanthrope,” a comedy by Molière. The Picnic Theatre Company seeks to “create a more social theatre going experience” by breaking away from traditional settings and, instead, introducing its audience to “site-specific party-style theatre.”
“My friend, Bruce MacPhail, and I founded The Picnic Theatre Company in the spring of 2010. We know each other from my old theatre company in the UK. This company toured the UK in the summer, performing Shakespeare in country houses. This got us thinking about doing plays in non-traditional venues. In addition, we were frustrated by the lack of opportunities to picnic and drink outside in the D.C. area! We wanted to host an event where people could come and have a boozy picnic. The focus is on bringing together young professionals for drinks, mingling and fun. We also just happen to put on a play,” Oli explained to me during a post-production telephone conversation.
They seem to have found a niche in the D.C. theatre scene. Since its founding, The Picnic Theatre Company has performed four shows, with all three performances of each show selling out. The late night performances operate as cocktail parties, integrating drinks and mingling among audience members prior to the show. The matinée shows provide the same opportunity for mingling, with the ability for the audience to pack its own picnic. It’s an atmosphere where you feel equally comfortable attending with friends as you do on your own. The social environment almost guarantees that you’ll leave having met a good number of interesting people.
Oli admitted that the company was surprised by its instant success. “I think the appeal has something to do with the fact that the plays are short (less than one hour) and the event is basically a party, with alcohol. There aren’t too many other D.C. organizations providing such an interactive, casual, theatre experience. I think all of this combines to encourage people (young professionals especially) who don’t usually attend the theatre to come out to our shows.”
Adding further appeal, the ticket prices for shows are extremely affordable, at only $10 per ticket. And all of the proceeds from the performances go to charity. The Washington Theatre Legacy Project and the Dumbarton House were the recipients of the proceeds from all performances of “The Misanthrope.”
The Picnic Theatre Company performs two shows a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Want to get involved, either as a future cast member, audience participant or volunteer? Find the The Picnic Theatre Company on Facebook and Twitter, or e-mail them at email@example.com, and let them know! The next performance is still being planned and will be performed in the spring of 2012!
The Picnic Theatre Company’s Fall 2011 Production of “The Misanthrope”
Production: C. Karim Chrobog (Director)
Cast: Kashuo Bennett (Philinte); Clara Brillembourg (Arsinoe); Christina Carlisi (Eliante); Nova Daly (Clitandre); Omar Popal (Oronte); Christina Sevilla (Celimene); and Oliver Robinson (Alceste).