By Kimberly White
The inaugural Northwest Florida Theatre Festival at Grand Boulevard offers 19 pieces written, produced and performed by locals. It was held in conjunction with the Mother’s Day weekend’s ArtsQuest and continues May 18-21 with repeats of many of the first weekend’s performances.
The Tiny Warriors appealed to me on a couple different levels. The skit stars a life coach named Lisa and her roommate of two years, Morty, whose work as a suicide hotline operator provides comedically grim material for his true aspiration as a greeting card writer.
I don’t know anything about life coaches, suicide hotlines or greeting card writers, but I do know about the complexities involved with having roommates. I figured the play would be a combination of comedy and drama.
My most vivid memory living with a male roommate in Monterey, California, occurred during a drunken Cinco de Mayo bash. We soaked for a while in the backyard hot tub, chased each other for two blocks and then tackled each other into the icy-cold waters of the Monterey Bay. Hopefully, that’s as close as I’ll ever get to being electrocuted.
For his part, on our last night together as roommates, Mark said his lasting memory of me would be the night I was dressed on full scuba gear—wetsuit, tank and all—doing an imitation of Meg Ryan’s orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. I don’t remember the circumstances behind that one, but it was also probably driven by alcohol.
Then there was David, who I lived with briefly in Washington, D.C. He worked at a bar, and my only real memory of that living arrangement was the incident that ended it. He came home completely wasted one night and pounded on my bedroom door for what seemed like hours, screaming and yelling about something obscure while I cowered in my room because the door didn’t have a lock. I couldn’t call for help because my cell phone was in the living room. There’s just something about roommates and alcohol that lead to lasting memories.
Based on those experiences, I expected a comedy-drama in The Tiny Warriors, although I also left room for some sexual tension, the male-female dynamic being what it is. The play does, in fact, include all those elements during its short but sweet time slot. (The fact that it was only 15 minutes long was the other thing that appealed to me, my attention span also being what it is.)
The skit opens with Lisa (Cana Sylvester) circling a couch and coffee table topped with a wine bottle and glass, talking to a friend on her cell about her pending move to Italy. During the conversation, she also alludes to her recent breakup with “Chris,” which tipped me off to some upcoming sexual tension.
Morty (Justin Duncan) wanders in at the tail end of the conversation and, while Lisa folds laundry, he reads some of the greeting card ideas he’s sketched out at work—all but one of which starkly reflects the depressing nature of his work at his day job. But this is where the comedy begins, and the laughter and sexual tension build from there. Especially after two lonely socks make an appearance.
Sylvester, 22, lives in Fort Walton Beach while Duncan, also 22, studies theater in Orlando. The two wrote The Tiny Warriors while enrolled in the visual and performing arts department at Gulf Coast State College.
“There was this variety show and we just watched 10-minute plays and figured we may as well just write a 10-minute play, that’ll be perfect, and we’ll just throw it in this variety show,” Sylvester explains. “We always talked about doing it again, but it’s so hard to find a space.”
Sylvester and Duncan both previously worked with the Emerald Coast Theatre Company, and they found the space to perform when she was poking around on the company’s web site several months ago.
I’m not sure why it took so long for a performing arts element to make its way into ArtsQuest, but I’m glad it did. Not only are live performances entertaining to audiences and performers alike, but events like the Northwest Florida Theatre Festival are “unjuried and uncensored”—meaning they’re open to anyone, experienced or not, with an idea and the passion to see it through.
See The Tiny Warriors at 560 Grand Boulevard Upstairs Saturday, May 20, at 10 p.m. More at NWFTheatreFestival.com.