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Pictured, Scott Caple and Gregg Gaskel, who play Hector and Mitch respectively. Courtesy photo.




See Only For You 

Where: Players’ Ring, 105 Marcy St., Portsmouth
When: June 19 through June 28, with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 10 p.m., Sundays at 9 p.m.
Admission: $15, discounts for students, seniors
Contact: 436-8123, playersring.org




Passion projects
Late Night series highlights local, original work

06/18/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



New, experimental and rough around the edges — that’s how Players’ Ring artistic committee chairperson Todd Hunter described the shows that make up this summer’s Late Night season, which premieres this weekend with Only For You by local Greg Gaskell.

These pieces are non-traditional or shorter than the plays that are part of the Ring’s mainstage season, and you won’t see them anywhere else. Hunter said the series began in 2002 so as not to compete with the annual outdoor Prescott Park production (which this year is Peter Pan). Seeing these shows, he said, is like hearing an artist’s demo tape before the finished song.
“We realized there was a bit of an audience for late-night, experimental type of theater,” Hunter said via phone last week. “[The Late Night Series] is very much an experimental breeding ground. These shows should never be seen as very finished, polished types of shows, but they give audiences a chance to peek in on works in progress. … It’s an opportunity to get in on something that’s almost underground.”
All shows in the series are no longer than 90 minutes. First on the list is Gaskell’s Only For You, which saw the stage just once before in 2011. Gaskell calls it a “two-man, one-man” show.
The play centers around a guy, Mitch, played by Gaskell, who, over a strange course of events, winds up traveling to Mexico with a church group and becomes tangled in a series of misunderstandings that lead him to a Mexican jail cell. His only company is a guy named Hector who, go figure, only speaks Spanish and is also having the worst night of his life.
Gaskell originally wrote the role for Tobin Moss, who played Mitch in the 2011 production. He liked the idea of writing an introspective, one-man show, but he didn’t want Mitch to be talking to himself or the audience the whole time.
“So that’s how the Mexican prison thing fell into place,” Gaskell said. “The first half of the play, Mitch is in a Mexican prison, babbling and telling stories about his life. The second half of the play, he’s trying to understand what happened and how he got there. Hector is really a sounding board for him.”
Gaskell’s no stranger to playwriting. Audiences may know him for his Sharp Dressed Men trilogy, produced at the Ring in February 2014, or Background Check, produced in January 2014. He does his best work between tasks during his day job as a residential garbage truck driver. He keeps a spiral notebook on hand at all times because it’s while driving that he gets some of his best story ideas.
“I remember hearing that Einstein always came up with his best ideas while he was working as a patent clerk. We do our most creative thinking when we’re raking leaves or doing the dishes,” Gaskell said. “When you’re just going throughout your day and your mind isn’t fixed on the problem or what you’re stuck on, your mind is free. And the next thing you know, you’ve solved your problem.”
Gaskell is looking forward to seeing the rest of this year’s Late Night Series lineup. He plans to write more for the Players’ Ring; Tom, Henry and George from his Sharp Dressed Men trilogy will come back this fall. He appreciates that there’s a local theater willing to produce his shows.
“There isn’t another theater within miles of here where you can walk in and literally say, ‘I have an idea. Can you help me?’ That’s what you can do at the Players’ Ring. I would be lost without it,” Gaskell said.
But then, to promote local artists’ original work is part of the theater organization’s mission. 
“These are passion projects,” Hunter said. “[Artists] will always have a home here, where they can put their passions on stage and hone their craft.” 
 
As seen in the June 18, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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