“Do we need a pile of Velveeta or do we not?” These are the kind of questions that stage manager Z Makila had to figure out with company director Lindsay Fitzgerald while preparing a new musical, My Boyfriend Is an Alien (and I’m OK with That). The prop did seem pretty important even though the show was going minimal on set. Velveeta was the reason that David, an extra-terrestrial, came to earth in the first place.
The 10-minute show is part of a rapid-fire three-day festival at Theatre Elision, in Crystal, called A Flight of Short Musicals, which runs January 23-25—and David’s alien identity actually isn’t the twist. For that, pay more attention to the Iowa woman he falls in love with. The rest is an absurd amount of drama, comedy, and Rocky Horror kitsch. Joining it are four other 10- to 20-minute musicals, which run the gamut from quirky to touching to a full-on grammar rant about apostrophes (courtesy of local actor Kyler Chase, who says he completely relates to his character’s turmoil).
Between shows, audience members enjoy flights of wine, specialty cocktails, or non-alcoholic beverages, created and curated by Harrison Wade, who is also the show’s music director and one of the cast.
The crew will clear out the first rows in front of the Elision Playhouse’s main stage so they can bring in tables for more of a cabaret feeling. The cast, who show up in multiple roles across the night, will all read off their scripts. “It all moves so quickly. If one doesn’t speak to you, it’s OK because we’re onto the next one,” says Christine Wade, wife of Harrison, Theatre Elision’s vocal director, and A Flight of Musicals actor.
Finding short musicals was not the easiest task, whereas 10-minute plays are numerous enough to be their own category, jokes Christine. Introducing songs into a short script can eat up four of the 10 minutes, although a couple of the shows sidestep this issue by being completely sung.
Add Theatre Elision’s standard script requirements—which include having at least 50% of the characters be woman-identifying—and the pickings become slimmer. What Theatre Elision found, though, is anything but the bottom of the barrel. The five plays come by way of an Emmy nominee, a touring Broadway and television actor, and two locals.
“These shows—it’s not that they don’t have a value on their own,” Makila says, “but you don’t want to see one without the other. They don’t have a lot to do with each other, but they have the same threads, little themes, and with the same actors, it’s a full experience.”