Jon Puls, Destineigh Steelman, Becky Steele, John Akers and Brielle Bristol rehearse a piece written by Hayden Brooks. Courtesy

Don’t be alarmed if you see an ominous cloaked figure or two roaming the Laramie County Library this weekend.

Local theater group True Troupe is hosting two nights of shows – tonight and Saturday – in the Cottonwood Room. But what’s with the mythical costumes, you ask? The series of shows is called “Dungeons and Drama,” a take on the popular game “Dungeons and Dragons,” that is essentially the 2020 iteration of last year’s “Plays Against Humanity.”

For those unfamiliar with the popular theater event from 2019, the concept behind both “Plays Against Humanity” and “Dungeons and Drama” is once a group of brave directors, choreographers, writers, actors and dancers is assembled, they break into smaller groups and have a week to each create a completely original production from scratch. Well, not completely from scratch – Artistic Director Adrianna True said there are certain challenges each type of artist will be handed, such as having to incorporate a certain super power into a character. She’ll have a pair of dice for participants to use, and they must roll to determine how strong or weak said power is.

“It’s a weeklong play festival, loosely based on a piece of devised theater that I’d do with a group in college,” True said. “You’d get in a group on a Thursday and then on a Saturday evening you’d perform it. But I was like, ‘Huh, that isn’t doable if you’re not a college student, so how do we make this a community-oriented thing for working people?’ I decided the turnaround of a week is doable.”

The goal is to attract people who are interested in theater but can’t commit to the typical eight-some weeks of rehearsals required for a full-fledged production. She’s hoping to get everyone from moms to students to seniors, which isn’t such a far-reaching goal based on last year’s age range of 14-55(ish, she’s not sure of the exact age of the oldest actor).

Giving the project a mythology theme inspired by “Dungeons and Dragons” came from a direct attempt to connect with the local gaming community, True said, which has a great deal of crossover with the local theater community.

“A lot of theater kids do ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ … they’d be like, ‘This is our new friend, Sean. He writes all these (D&D) campaigns,’ and I’m like, ‘Why hasn’t Sean written a play?’” True said. “That was the idea of the outreach, to reach communities who are on the fringe of things.”

And it never hurts to reach out to people who also have a great imagination and love for role play, she added.

Festivities kicked off the morning of Saturday, Feb. 22, when True coaxed the participants out of bed with coffee and doughnuts for some mingling and an initial meeting with their assigned groups. Participants with an interest in developing several skills are allowed to participate in several groups, she said, but they have to play different roles in each play. The director of one show can be an actor in another show, for example, but can’t act in their own show.

Every writer got 36 hours to finish their script, and then groups got to choose when, where and how often they rehearsed between Monday and Friday to make scheduling around several jobs as easy as possible.

True knows better than to blindly trust this process, however, so she said there are two scripts of her own that she wrote as part of her contingency plan in case any writers fall through.

One of True’s favorite memories from last year’s project was deciding which writer should receive the challenge of killing off a character. She and her production partner decided to give it to 14-year-old participant Jade Kelly-Ingram, who wrote one play, acted in another and danced in one of the dance-only productions. True said she was pleasantly surprised by Kelly-Ingram’s creativity – the young playwright created a twisted show about “God’s meditative yoga,” in which she managed to not only kill off a character, but also create one of the most bizarre props: a brain made by carving a football into a brain shape and putting it in a jar of green Kool-Aid.

True’s excited to kick off the group’s 2020 season with this series of plays, which she hopes will attract bigger audiences than last year because the venue is more centrally located, as opposed to being at the Laramie County Community College. She also made the showtimes earlier – both performance nights kick off at 6:30 p.m. – in hopes of attracting more families with early bedtimes and seniors who might not want to drive at night.

What’s most exciting, however, is the number of people who signed up as participants this year. True said she’s happy to see not only familiar faces, but several new people, and to be able to accommodate an interested group of Laramie actors who will rehearse on their own, then come to Cheyenne both nights to perform.

There’s also the intros and transitions between each play to look forward to.

“We’re going to work that in so it’s within the theme,” she said.

“Last year, we did it where we ran the whole thing like the ‘Price is Right’ game show … this time, it’ll be more mythical, maybe a more ominous figure who walks out and tells you what’s going on, then leaves,” she said with a laugh.

Niki Kottmann is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s features editor. She can be reached at nkottmann@wyoming

news.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter at @niki_mariee.

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