Ensemble Theatre to seek Guinness record with 'Bald Soprano' - Oct. 18-25

Ensemble Theatre to seek Guinness record with 'Bald Soprano' - Oct. 18-25

October 17th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

Janni Ball, left, and Zach DeSutter are one of the two couple whose non sequiturs populate "The Bald Soprano" at Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga.

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IF YOU GO

* What: "The Bald Soprano"

* When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-

Saturday, Oct. 18-19; 2:30

p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20; 7:30

p.m. Friday, Oct. 25

* Where: Ensemble

Theatre, Eastgate Town

Center, 5600 Brainerd Road

* Admission: $15 adults,

$10 students

* Phone: 423-602-8640

* Website:

ensembletheatre.com

Don't worry about getting to the Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga on time for its Oct. 25 performance of "The Bald Soprano."

Whatever time you get there, the show will be starting over within the hour. And the next hour. And the next hour. And ...

The theater's six-person cast of the absurdist comedy by Eugene Ionesco hopes to set a Guinness Book record for the longest play by performing it for 30 straight hours.

The feat would shatter the previous record of 23 hours, 33 minutes, 54 seconds set by the 27 O'Clock Players in Belmar, N.J., in 2010, according to director John Thomas Cecil.

Before the record attempt, "The Bald Soprano" will be presented three times this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Oct. 18-20.

The play was written by the Frenchman Ionesco when he was learning the English language and first performed in 1950.

What the playwright called the "sober and strange" dialogues in the language textbook made him more cognizant of a world in which people talk without saying anything, or at least anything meaningful to him.

That thought process morphed into a play in which the conversation at a typical English dinner party makes less and less sense. Eventually, the couples at the dinner party are talking to each other in non sequiturs.

The laughs, according to Cecil, come in the timing of the non sequiturs, in the way they are spoken and in the misplaced meanings they offer in context.

Ionesco called the play "a tragedy of language," Cecil says. "I guess what he was trying to say is that words are just that -- just words. [The importance] is more in how they're trying to say it. Some lines are as if they are from a textbook."

Cecil says the play fits the theater's mission statement of exploring the imagination.

"We want to push the envelope with imagination," he says. ... "It's an absurd piece that really challenges reality."

The play opens with a monologue by Mrs. Smith. Her husband responds by clicking his tongue. When he does speak, his words contradict what she just said.

Eventually, another couple, the Martins, arrive to join the conversation, as do the Smiths' maid, Mary, and the fire chief. When the fire chief turns to leave, he mentions "the bald soprano" in passing. In response, Mrs. Smith replies that "she always styles her hair the same way."

In the non-Guinness record shows, the play ends by intentionally looping back to the beginning. At that point, the actors who have that has been playing the Smiths are portraying the Martins and vice versa. It then cycles through a second time.

Cecil says he wants audience members to feel "the same kind of mind-bending deja vu" that Ionesco did in struggling with the English language. They're wondering, he says, if they've just seen different people in the roles.

"As a director," he says, "I can feel it twisting my brain. I can only [imagine] what the actors [who have to learn double the lines] are going through."

The cast includes Jani Ball, Zach DeSutter, Christy Gallo, Megan Hollenbeck, Sanford Knox Jr. and Jeremy Wilkins.

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.