Playwright Sandra Hosking has toiled at the trade long enough to know a few things about getting her work from the page to the stage.
Keep it short. Keep the cast small. Make staging the play as simple (and cheap) as possible.
When the opening-night audience at Stage Left Theater for Hosking's Creeps sees the multimedia production of the absurd, surreal look at modern sexual politics, it might be hard to imagine it was written with a much simpler "black box" treatment in mind, if only because, as Hosking says, "that's all that theaters can afford."
The Stage Left playwright-in-residence handed off the script for her first fully staged show at the space to local director and filmmaker Juan A. Mas. And while they've collaborated along the way, Hosking is purposefully avoiding seeing the full production until it's in front of a real, live audience.
Creeps focuses on the relationship of outspoken scientist Eve and her new video game programmer roommate Sarah, a natural introvert, as they navigate their relationships with each other and their respective beaus, exes and prospective partners. The script has large doses of slapstick, and a dive into social Darwinism via modern dating mores.
"Juan comes from film, he's very visual. I'm not as visual," Hosking says, noting that the director has brought together a team that includes audio designers, movement specialists, video and lighting experts to stage Creeps. "He's bringing to life some of the video stuff I hint at in the script, so I'm excited to see how that plays out. You do staged readings, but you don't get to see all the technical stuff."
When the curtain rises, it will mark a milestone in Creeps' journey that began when Hosking started writing it in 2008, inspired by the then-revolutionary role-playing happening online in Second Life.
The script inspired director Mas to flesh out her ideas as much as possible, so taken was he with her commentary about sexual roles, personalities and technology.
"She has the ability to deliver comedy while she's making very poignant points about the world, about people, about who we are," Mas says. "She's got a very dry wit that's constant in her themes, and in her material."
While online role-play has evolved and Hosking has tweaked the script through the years, the basic ideas that inspired her remain as relevant now as when she began.
"I was thinking a lot about relationships, and specifically the rivalries between women and the way men treat women," Hosking says. "So this play is very female-centric. I wanted to make a statement about modern relationships, and how they fit together... the biology and social order of relationships. Do the good relationships go to the survival of the fittest? Do nice guys win, or do the strong predators win in relationships?"
The script tackles those questions in hilarious ways, and Hosking says humor is something that's infused much of her work since writing her first play in seventh grade, a murder mystery called Death by the Dollar. While that remains unproduced, she did get to hear her dialogue performed in the mid-'90s when a she wrote a play for an acting class she was taking in Spokane Valley.
"I heard them bring the characters to life, and I realized, 'This is what I want to do,'" she says. "'Forget writing fiction. Forget a job. I don't need to act. I just need to write scripts for these people who are really good actors.' And that's what I've been doing ever since."
When she's not creating outlets for herself and other writers via organizing short-play festivals like Hit & Run and Fast & Furious, Hosking continues writing longer works in hopes of breaking out into a larger regional theater or New York. But she has no plans to leave the town she's called home since 1982, where the 45-year-old is "married with a kid, a mortgage, a dog and a cat." She travels to get some of the diversity of life she recognizes as necessary for keeping her writing perspective fresh.
"I try to break out once in a while," Hosking says. "But Spokane is where I'm most comfortable and feel at home. I can do my writing here. I can find a coffee shop and settle in. There's a depth of acting talent here that I don't have to go anywhere else to find. That all fuels me." ♦
Creeps • Feb. 20-March 1, Fri-Sat at 7:30 pm, Sun at 2 pm • $10 • Stage Left Theater • 108 W. Third • spokanestageleft.org • 838-9727