Sunday, February 8, 2004

'Dead Lines' brings short works alive

Trust an alternative theater to deliver an "alternative" Valentine. Dead Lines is a collection of original works inspired by "grateful dead folktales" (yes, that's where the band name came from). It opens Thursday, continuing through Valentine's Day weekend and until Feb. 22 under the banner of Performance Gallery at the Columbia Performance Center (3900 Eastern Ave.)

These grateful dead tales, explains director Regina Pugh, can involve a selfless act ("somebody does something for a dead stranger, usually making sure there is a proper burial"), or the theory that "the dead can somehow return and effect change in our lives" or that good deeds are repaid.

"I thought, wouldn't this be fun?" says Pugh, and almost a year ago she invited five writers to submit short plays on the theme.

Dead Lines features, she laughs, "six writers, eight actors and some puppets." Pugh's big job came in weaving together 10-minute plays by Brian Andrews-Griffin, Stephanie Cotton-Snell, Shelly Halter, Brian Robertson, Nathan Singer and a puppet work by Aretta Baumgartner.

"It's a little dangerous," Pugh promises happily. There's the surreal, visual tale of a mute, another vignette that addresses Cincinnati's homeless and a monologue that is very much a work-in-progress. "We're excited."

Following Wednesday's opening, Dead Lines plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets $10. Call 333-8482 for reservations and information. There's a free mini-performance at 6:00 p.m. Saturday in conjunction with the Fine Arts Fund's Sampler Weekend.

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