Arts and Culture

On Saturday morning, I passed the posters for Actors Theatre’s “Macbeth” and “Dracula,” and slid into the darkened Victor Jory Theatre for one of the forgotten gems of the theater’s season: the professional training company shows.  

Now in its 45th year, Actors’ Professional Training Company (formerly the Apprentice/Intern Company) is an immersive program designed to transition recent college graduates into careers by teaching both the business and the art of being a theater professional. It is a cornerstone for the theater’s commitment to education and one of the oldest programs of its kind in the country.

Members of the company work directly with the Actors staff and participate in a series of classes related to their craft; in this case, this season’s apprentices took cues from The Mad Ones, a New York City-based theater ensemble.

The result? “The Solo Mios,” a three-part series of short, solo performances entirely written and performed by the Apprentices. The series allows actors, directors, and dramaturgs to explore the creation and implementation of new work in a workshop environment similar to what they learned in class with The Mad Ones.

“Solo Mio Round #1” took place in September.

Saturday was “Round #2,” and it was superbly done. There were seven performances that lasted just over an hour. While not as well-known in the community as some of Actors’ standby show, each aspect of this performance was fresh, of-the-moment, and transportive — not an easy feat for short, solo works. Three in particular stood out.

“The Black Keys Live in Concert,” performed by Carter Caldwell, features a surprisingly endearing monologue by an awkward exterminator known simply as “Ratkiller.” We — the audience — have been duped into attending what was advertised as a Black Keys concert, but is actually just an empty theater that’s been rented out by Ratkiller. He’s lonely. He doesn’t understand social cues. He needs someone to talk to. We’re there to listen. Filled with poetry, rat stories and some deep confessions, “Black Keys” is weird and completely delightful.

“Not I in the MRI” opens on Regan Moro who has been trapped in an MRI machine at Jewish Hospital for over four hours. Why? Because she smuggled her cellphone into the machine so she could Snapchat her experience. Convinced this is how she’ll die, Moro begins dramatically recording her final thoughts for her loved ones to play after she’s gone.

What’s amazing about “Not I in the MRI” is that we see character growth within just a few minutes. Moro goes from over-the-top (like when she deliberates gnawing her own arm off) to tender, when she recounts the simple joy of being recognized as a “regular” at her neighborhood coffee shop.

Finally, “The Princess Game,” performed by Alexandra Milak, is a whirlwind commentary on femininity. Milak spends half of the time in a dreamy storytelling session, during which the audience learns about various women in her life; the ones who turned out well — who followed their passions, graduated from school, traveled the world — and the ones who did not.

We learn that she is smart, independent, and incredibly thoughtful when it comes to issues of women’s identity.

The other half is spent as we follow Milak in her presumed day-job as a princess performer at little girls’ birthday parties. The contrast is direct and poignant.

While “Solo Mio Round #2” finished its run this weekend, there are other opportunities to see the talented Professional Training Company in the coming months. “Solo Mio Round #3” begins Nov. 4 and “The Tens” takes place Jan. 10 through 14. More information is available here.