A new show at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival is a three-hour baseball game - with no actual baseball.
The idea to play a preplanned, totally scripted, imaginary game of baseball came to the creators of Brimmer Street Theatre Company's The Perfect Game when they were studying at Emerson College in Boston. David Jette, one of the creators, says this concept has been "a long time coming." Inspired by David Mamet's book Three Uses of the Knife (which includes the quote "The subject of drama is The Lie"), they set out to make a perfect game of baseball, right down to a triple play.
As the idea progressed, though, it became more about the whole experience of a baseball game, with food trucks, crowd reactions, the national anthem and a celebrity first pitch (hopefully L.A. theater community stalwarts Terence McFarland and Colin Mitchell, scheduled to appear, will throw a little bit better than 50 Cent).
"Half the time [in a real game], you can't even see what the ball's doing anyways," Jette says. "Could we do it, and could it be like baseball? Not only that, could it be better than baseball? Because we can write the game so that it's actually an interesting game, no matter what."
Their outing at the Fringe, performed outside at the Hollywood Recreation Center, will be the first true performance of the game. But they've tested the concept before. Joseph Roberts, another of the show's creators, organized a phantom baseball game in 2003 on Boston Common.
They've found that a baseball game isn't exactly an easy thing to "stage." For instance, Brimmer Street has hired a foley artist (someone who makes sound effects) to time out the crack of the bat against the imaginary ball so that it happens at the right moment, to help both the audience and the actors figure out what's going on. But after the ball flies off the bat, it's up to the cast to all keep the imaginary ball following the same path at the same speed - a feat that co-creator Dan Gordon calls "a group imagination exercise." It's also difficult keeping track of all 300 pitches in a prescripted, three-hour-long game, so there are only a few players who have the whole thing memorized.
In the game, the fictional Hollywood Hamsters square off against the Ventura Vikings. It's a strictly amateur game, which is probably for the best, as acting talent and baseball skills don't always go hand-in-hand. They've found that everyone looks a lot better once they take the ball away, though.
"It's very clear when people are rusty, or aren't professional baseball players," Gordon says, "But as soon as you get rid of the baseball, all of a sudden, everyone is amazing."
Jette adds, "Because people know what baseball players look like."
Jette and Gordon don't worry about the "false dichotomy" between theater kids and jocks. "I think at the core of it, everyone just craves story. It's what we look for in our daily lives," Gordon says. "I think that's why people who work in Hollywood, who tell stories for a living, love live games, because it is totally unscripted, and there is a story built into the structure of that game."
The Perfect Game plays at the Hollywood Recreation Center (1122 Cole Ave., Hlywd.) as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival on June 15 at 1 p.m. and June 22 at 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit brimmerstreet.org/perfectgame.
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