“An artist is a lightning rod, and has a responsibility to catch that electricity in the air…to listen to the world and provide opportunities for reflection, perspective, catharsis, resistance. This is our protest,” says Patrick’s Cabaret guest producer Kat Purcell in the official press release for the company’s upcoming Lightning Rod.

While I view my job as an arts writer in the Twin Cities as an opportunity to empower queer artists and support art that addresses LGBTQ+ issues, few things get me as excited as this event’s soon arrival. In case you’re not on the Cabaret mailing list, Lightning Rod is using nearly forty marginalized artists to create six theatre pieces in one week. The first meeting was this Sunday, and then Friday they go up! I love flash theatre with every fiber of my being, and the list of talent involved in this project is staggering.

While there are six writers and six directors, there are also over twenty-five performers that writers are tasked with creating characters for. As if this project weren’t exciting enough, Lightning Rod is adding one more challenge to the mix: at the all-call meeting on Sunday, the whole company will discuss what stories need told this week based on where we are socially and politically, and plays will be devised and written based on that list. The event, as hinted at earlier, is led by guest producer Kat Purcell, a new theatre artist and director to the Twin Cities who is already making waves as an important voice in the local theatre community.

Alyssa Perau is an actor and writer, and now, director gearing up to lead her cast on this adventure. Says Perau of the event, “I directed a bit in college, but most of my directing experience has been for children’s theaters. I feel confident about directing for Patrick’s since most of my theater projects have been based in collaboration. I think actors transitioning into acting have an advantage because they know how it feels to be directed and what actors need. Plus, I’m going to bake them cookies and tons of positive reinforcement since I know that gets the best work out of me when I’m acting.”

Patrick’s Cabaret has a rich reputation for creating a stomping ground for emerging artists who are further marginalized by race, gender, sexuality, physical or mental ability, or who are bound by the constraints of poverty. Allowing artists like Perau the opportunity to stretch her wings as she develops her first Fringe show (a one-woman show about a recent year in her life, aptly titled First Year Queer) fits right into the company’s goals. Lightning Rod in particular has a lot of roles that need filled, meaning those on the outskirts of the arts community have the perfect time to step into the (literal or proverbial, depending on their role) spotlight.

Emily Weiss, a local actor, was also happy to talk to me about her involvement in Lightning Rod. “It is, unfortunately, rare as a performer to find a space that is willing to acknowledge marginalized communities. This show goes beyond acknowledgement to put marginalized communities voices first and to project them loudly. The idea of naming a show Lightning Rod coupled with this blatant desire to give voice to those who have often been silenced is, if you will excuse the pun, electrifying.”

Weiss and Perau both expressed an excitement about not knowing what to expect during the week Lightning Rod is coming together. Says Weiss, “Pretty much all I know at this point is I’ll be in the same room with some of the brightest artists in the Cities. The schedule is simultaneously very specific, and not specific at all; community gathering on Sunday, writers….well, write on Monday. Rehearsals Tuesday and Wednesday. Tech Thursday. Then three groups perform Friday, and three Saturday.” She goes on to say though “Past experience has taught me that shows built similarly to this; little cabarets or devised theater often come out really fluid and mesh together really well. When you broaden the scope of a show beyond just one story, all stories become related. It’s a strange and wonderful thing about art,” and finished her statement with this: “Knowing the artists that Patrick’s Cabaret gives voice to, I expect a lot of good, hard, important questions to be asked and new ways to think about issues to be presented.”

Echoes Perau “I think the real challenge of Lightning Rod will be picking topics out of everything that is happening in the world. With the political energy being so high and controversial I know those stories will be featured. I’m hoping a focus on LGBTQI, especially trans rights will be included since Patrick’s Cabaret does beautiful work representing those topics. I don’t envy the writers for having to pick a topics out of endless options but I’m ready to trust whatever they choose. I have no idea what to expect but I know with the passion and care of the artist involved it will be a show you don’t want to miss.”

Lightning Rod will have three short plays, devised in less than a week, performing on Friday April 14th, and three more on Saturday, April 15th. Find out more including how to nab your own tickets at www.patrickscabaret.org. Tickets are just $10 and support the artists involved in the production.

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