This is a church basement, complete with pews and a bar that doesn’t serve alcohol. It’s dark all right, with heavy black curtains hanging behind a makeshift performance space. The more you look around, the more you see — a worn rug on the floor, an old piano with yellowed keys, some unrecognizable set pieces — and the more you worry you’ll cough at some inopportune moment.
This is a dusty, musty place, and it’s packed with people peering at wrinkled, folded and refolded scripts, their elbows resting on threadbare tablecloths.
This is a tryout space for new works. Some writers do the acting themselves. Others bring their own actors, but it’s easy to get volunteers, too. Most spectators are playwrights themselves, more than willing to pop into someone else’s scene for a few minutes and play out the characters living in someone else’s mind for a change.
This is Rule No. 1: The work must be original. Rule No. 2: The writer must be in the room. Rule No. 3: Only one piece per writer is allowed, except on slow nights (and this is a creative town, so there aren’t many of those). Rule No. 4: You only get 10 minutes. Those minutes zoomed by during Steve Maistros’ monologue about a man whose lack of consumerism makes him feel like a societal outcast, as well as during Nicole L. Vecchiotti’s piece about a yoga class in a women’s prison. Even a skit by a group of North Olmsted high school students did not disappoint.
This is what happens in the one well-lit space in the Dark Room: theater.
The Dark Room is held at the Old Parish Hall, Cleveland Public Theatre campus, 6203 Detroit Ave., at 8 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month. Visit www.clevelandtheater.com for more information. There is a $5 suggested donation and $2 donation for Cleveland Theater Collective members.