Two University of Central Oklahoma alums return for the metro debut of 'Bombs, Babes and Bingo'

Bombs, Babes and Bingo
8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Actor's Warehouse
30 N.E. 52nd

Based out of Fayetteville, Ark., the Artist's Laboratory Theatre (ALT) was formed earlier this year under the direction of University of Central Oklahoma alums Erika Wilhite and Alan Schwanke as a collaborative effort dedicated to the storytelling process through experimentation.

ALT's first production, "Bombs, Babes and Bingo," a play by Oklahoman Merri Biechler, deals with war, the fallibility of memory, the division of family, and the struggle of a scientist's quest to make sense of his life and work. 

"Bombs" is bookended by a fixed opening and closing, but the order of its remaining 10 scenes is determined randomly by the pull of a bingo ball, which creates a myriad of possibilities of story, character and drama that plays out differently every performance.

Artistic Director Wilhite said that according to the math, there are 39,916,800 possible versions.

Before "Bombs" debuted in Fayetteville this summer, ALT members spent the season in a performance lab, experimenting with the structure and content of the play.

"In the world of 'Bombs,' memory is a key element of drama on the stage," Wilhite said. "Before we started rehearsing the script, the lab explored "? intellectually and creatively "? the idea of memory. What is the cognitive function of memory? What would memory look like as a series of movements in space? What is the expressive definition of memory; what is the literal? What is the physical architecture of memory? We asked the science questions and explore them through art. And we asked the art questions and explore them with science."

Wilhite said this process also informs the sound and lighting design, scenic elements and character and relationship development in the final product, but added that this extensive development process isn't self-indulgent, resulting in a better show for audiences.

"It empowers the actor to make bold choices in the moment of performance, which is very compelling to watch. What we put in beforehand is different from other companies, perhaps, but I don't think our audiences need to know how we got to the moment of performance," she said. "Athletes train for the big game. So should artists."

ALT has started sharing its unique approach by doing public workshops, called "mobile labs," one of which took place in Oklahoma City last month that Wilhite described as a terrific experience.

OKC is the last stop before taking "Bombs" to Louisiana, where ALT has been invited to perform as a part of the New Orleans Fringe Festival.

"In addition to being accepted in a juried festival, we also received national recognition in American Theatre magazine," Wilhite said. "Things are really starting to cook for us!" "?Eric Webb

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