If you’re in the mood for something a bit different this Monday night, check out Hope Operas, a “cliffhangers for charity” theatre program. The final performance is Monday at The Comedy Spot in Ballston Common Mall, Hope Operas present one 15-minute act or “episode” from each of five plays during the performance.
At the end of the performance, audience members vote for their favorite play, and profits from the door are distributed to the nonprofits according to the popularity of their benefactor show.
The beginning of the show features a recap highlighting the events of each play so far.
“Exorcist: Turn Off the Hell” tells the eventful tale of the making of a Broadway musical. Written by Andrew Lloyd Baughman and directed by Melissa Baughman, the production benefits Americans United for Separation of Church & State.
“Law & Ordure” is written and performed in the style of a police procedural as the cast works to solve a murder most foul. Written by Kathleen Akerley and directed by Rex Daugherty, the production benefits Hair Flair for Hope.
In “Matters of Life and Death,” a set of siblings who work at a funeral home prove that death can be a funny business, but working with your family can be enough to kill you. Written by Kerri Sheehan and directed by Emily Ann Jablonski, the production benefits The Washington Literacy Council.
A businessman who dreams of building a sex robot faces many obstacles, including a repressed chief programmer and a conservative senator, in “R.U.X. (Rockwell's Universal seXbots).” Written by Maurice Martin and directed by Sun King Davis, the production benefits HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive).
A take on the female werewolf movies of the 1950s, “sGuIrReL” is the story of Helena Honeynutt, heiress to the Honeynutt fortune and possibly the Honeynutt curse. Written by Chris Griffin and directed by Heather Bagnall Scheeler, the production benefits Planned Parenthood of the DC Metropolitan Area.
Being involved with Hope Operas has been a positive experience for the productions’ playwrights and directors. “I don’t know of any other play series done in this way,” said Maurice Martin, writer of “R.U.X. (Rockwell's Universal seXbots),” which the audience selected to receive the most money toward its designated charity each of the first three weeks of the Hope Operas series. “The fun, unique format is what I enjoy,” he detailed.
Martin believes that the Hope Operas series “gives attendees a taste of the work of a lot of different playwrights and directors and is a great way to learn something about the charities.”
For Sun King Davis, director of “R.U.X. (Rockwell's Universal seXbots),” being part of Hope Operas has been “really rewarding.” “As an actor and director, my goal is to make the world a more beautiful place, and it’s rewarding to use our talents to brighten our world just a little bit,” he explained.
“I have an absolutely fantastic cast and crew,” Davis added. “It’s wonderful to work with people you’re happy to show up to rehearsal and see.”
Chris Griffin, Hope Operas founder, echoed the sentiments of his fellow artists. “My experience with Hope Operas has been great in that birth-giving way. I started Hope Operas in 2009 and was excited to find so many DC theatre folks who were game to try the episodic format and who would work for free (or toward raising money for charity). In our first two years, we raised more than $5,000 for local nonprofits and world-premiered 10 new plays,” he said.
While Griffin noted that he would like to see higher audience turnout for the last Hope Operas performances, he stated, “I think this has been our best year artistically with no weak plays in the bunch and everyone really striving to write, produce and perform the best shows they can.”
Up next for Hope Operas may be a set of serialized musicals, according to Griffin, who explained that the writers have been contemplating the idea of spicing up the Hope Operas project.
First up, though, is the last night in this year’s Hope Operas series. Attending the show is “a fun thing to do on a Monday night and a great way to support local nonprofits while seeing dynamic and innovative live theatre,” said Griffin.
The final Hope Operas production is Monday at 8 p.m. Tickets ($12 per show; cash only) are available at The Comedy Spot box office starting at 7 p.m. the night of the performance.