Off script, on track
Allard discusses her play "Vrooommm!" and its 2016 Triad Stage run
Last January, playwright Janet Allard sat inconspicuously in the Hanesbrands Theater in Winston-Salem, N.C., quietly taking in the audience’s delighted response to her rollicking comedy “Vrooommm!”
“I don’t like being in the spotlight,” Allard says. “I’m happy to give it away.”
Creative generosity runs through all of Allard’s work, whether she’s helping UNCG students adapt plays for the stage and find their voices or collaborating with actors in workshops all over the country to write powerfully funny comedies, musicals, and dramatic plays that take on the challenge of unusual subject material.
Her 2009 play “Vrooommm!: A NASComedy” is a goofy high-speed story of a “suspiciously” successful female NASCAR driver and her resentful male fellow drivers — who are played by other women. It’s a bizarre Saturday morning cartoon injected with feminist steroids.
After being commissioned by D.C.’s Signature Theatre and developed in Palo Alto and Minneapolis workshops, the play had its first Southern run at Triad Stage in Winston-Salem earlier this year. Triad Stage co-founder Preston Lane, Allard’s colleague both from their Yale School of Drama days and now in UNCG’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, had the play on his short list since Allard first wrote it.
“It’s a wild play,” says Allard. In between drunken karaoke numbers and sequences featuring a menacing character in a chicken suit, actors mimed crash and race scenes with rolling office chairs.
The wackiness went a bit off script on opening night, when Emma Kikue, playing Randy “Stonewall” Jackson, had trouble with her adhesive moustache. She didn’t miss a beat, spluttering, “I’m so excited, my moustache is coming off!”
“What surprises me about ‘Vrooommm!’ is how wacky it gets,” says Allard. She wasn’t concerned, though; improvised lines and experimentation were how the play came to be in the first place.
It’s all part of the process. “I believe that the best idea surfaces,” she says.
Allard has taught everywhere from her native Hawaii to The New School. When she’s not working on her upcoming musical “Into the Wild” or flying to New York City to collaborate with friends, the assistant professor can be found at her home base at UNCG, taking inspiration from her students.
“The people who are 20 now are the future of theater,” she says, smiling. “Seeing someone tap into their voice, realize they have something to say … it’s a beautiful thing to watch happen.”
Learn more at https://vpa.uncg.edu/theatre