When I saw a rehearsal of The Master Plan, it ended with a rousing high school fight song and two dead bodies.
It won't end the same way when you see it. Theatre 'd Art's latest show allows the actors to end the comedy in any way they want.
"Surprise elements and spontaneity are some of my goals as an art director," says writer and director Brian Mann, who has never undertaken a project quite like this.
"I wanted to take advantage of what other mediums don't, and create a play around the unplanned; something really exciting for the actors and audience, where anything can happen. I wanted to let the play run wild."
And run wild it does. The convoluted plot involving a hard-drinking private investigator framed for murder jumps back and forth in time and requires all nine actors to pay close attention. While they'll adhere to the "reality of the play," as Mann puts it, and stay within character, the invitation to improvise means that one actor, with one comment, may take the story in an unexpected direction. So the rest of the actors, and the attendees, must be ready to shift gears on a dime.
"I hope the audience understands it might not be polished and seamless," says Mann. "I don't want them to expect it to be perfect; it's live, it's not supposed to be."
In prepping the play, Mann himself has had to deal with the unexpected: His lead actress dropped out three days before opening night, prompting a 10-page rewrite and the elimination of her character.
"There's been a lot of roadblocks," says Tammy Smith, who has excelled in early showings as strong-willed secretary Laura. "But the show must go on."