Ithaca, N.Y. — A new Ithaca theater company will burst onto the stage in late February thanks to two thespian roommates and a cohort of local dramaturges whose prolific punning could make Oscar Wilde blush.
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“We know when we’re on the right track when I start getting squeamish about something,” says Marissa Biondolillo.
Biondolillo is a writer and actress who founded the new “Open Wide Theatre” with Adrienne Huffman and five other actors.
Open Wide’s first show is set to debut at the Community School of Music and Arts in downtown Ithaca on the last two days of February and March 1 (a Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
Called “Be Gentle, It’s Our First Time,” the collection of one-act shows aims to both entertain and probe, to provoke laughter and enlighten.
“We wanted to keep the plays all positive, all kind of light and funny,” Biondolillo says, “Because we’re using humor as the vehicle to get you comfortable.”
The plays — written, acted and directed exclusively by Ithacans — have different plots but all revolve around the themes of sex and relationships.
Biondollio will star in an unusual role in “Flying Solo,” the short play she wrote and that set the theater company in motion.
“I play the dildo,” she says.
1 — How did Open Wide get started?
Open Wide is the brainchild of Huffman and Biondolillo, who met at a cast party in Ithaca in 2013.
“We hit it off immediately,” Huffman says.
The two studied at the Actors’ Workshop of Ithaca and became fast friends. (All the members of the founding group of Open Wide are members of the workshop.)
Biondolillo wrote “Flying Solo” and began showing it to a few friends, who would laugh and give their approval. Then Biondolillo showed the script to Huffman.
“She said, ‘We have to put this on. What are you doing not sharing this with everyone, everywhere?,’” Biondolillo said. “We have to produce this.”
2 — How does Open Wide operate?
With low overhead costs and the ability to rent out of CSMA, Open Wide is primarily being funded by Deborah Simon, a retired local teacher and a writer of one of the short plays.
Both Huffman and Biondolillo emphasized that everyone in the production — from the playwrights to the actors to the directors — live in Ithaca.
“Ithaca is ripe with talent and creativity that doesn’t need to be sought anywhere else,” Huffman said. “We don’t need to go to New York City to find great actors.”
The women say they would love to possibly expand their operation but are eager just to get started.
“This is inherently a collaborative effort,” Huffman says. “We really could not have done it without the collective excitement and creativity of the other writers, directors, and actors.”
3 — What’s that about a dildo?
Biondolillo’s “Flying Solo” is, like many plays, about someone struggling to deal with the aftermath of a breakup.
Unlike most plays, however, “Flying Solo” features “a girl who starts hearing the voice of her dildo,” according to Biondolillo.
“Through the course of this conversation with an inanimate object that’s animated in her room she comes to terms with her relationship ending and moving on,” Biondolillo says.
Will audiences go for it?
“You have to accept the reality of this universe,” she says. “It’s the magic of the theater.”
4 — Who are the playwrights?
Here are the playwrights and the names of their shows:
Marissa Biondolillo – Flying Solo
AJ Sage – Curse of The Bambino
Deborah Simon – 2’s A Charm
George Sapio – Therapy Group of Misfit Toys
Jeff Hodges – Meryl Streep Doesn’t Do Westerns
James Comfort – What We Play For
Biondolillo and Huffman didn’t want to reveal too much about the plots of the shows.
But they did say that another show approaches the unifying theme of sex and relationships through the story of an older woman and through other perspectives.
“It’s beautifully diverse,” Biondolillo says.
5 — How much are tickets for the show?
It’s a suggested donation of $10.
Biondollio said she is expecting a crowd that will fill to capacity, so you’ll want to get there ahead of time. After all, it will be your first time, too.