With theatre on indefinite lockdown throughout the region and the nation, Pointless Theatre in Washington is keeping an eye on the future. The decade-old professional company — known for such productions as “Hugo Ball: a Dada puppet AdvenTurE!!/?1!!??” and a version of Alfred Jarry’s “Ubu Roi” translated via Google — is still hoping to mount “The Legend of Hang Tuah” in mid-July.
The production, based on tales of the mythic Malay knight, is being created by Pointless co-artistic directors Patti Kalil and Matt Reckeweg alongside contemporary Malay storytellers, with Rorschach Theatre’s Randy Baker directing. The creative team traveled to Malaysia last year to begin the process, but recent events have kept their work closer to home.
The company strives to create “truly unique” original pieces in the often-overstuffed regional theatre marketplace.
“We do not have a brick and mortar office or studio; we have always conducted our business from our living rooms, so that has not been a big adjustment for us in terms of administration,” deputy director Wendy Walker told MD Theatre Guide. As for show development, “we have moved our workshop from in-person to virtual, which will allow the Malaysian artists to take part in the event with the D.C. production team and artistic team.”
Until the show opens, Pointless Theatre is keeping its fans engaged by releasing videos of past productions on Vimeo each Thursday. The company is also keeping in closer contact with subscribers, and is using this time to craft a new strategic plan.
“We are a small professional theatre, and like all small companies, we struggle with engaging new audiences to fill the seats,” Walker said. “It is a particular challenge for us due to the content we produce.” The company strives to create “truly unique” original pieces in the often-overstuffed regional theatre marketplace.
“Pointless Theatre is dedicated to creating bold, visceral, and affordable spectacles that gleefully smash the traditional boundaries between puppetry, theatre, dance, music, and the visual arts,” Walker said. “Through our work, we excite a passion for adventurous art in the nation’s capital and nurture a diverse, active, and inspired audience.”
Scott Whalen, a founding member of the company, says that inspiration and daring sense of the original is part of the experience for the artists as well as for the audience.
“The company excels at blurring the lines between puppetry, dance, theatre, live music and the visual arts,” Whalen said. “The end product is intimately crafted spectacle that leaves viewers excited about the performance and in awe of what they just saw. Was it dance theatre? Was it a puppet concert? You never know what medium to expect when coming to see a Pointless show, and that makes us very unique in a crowded theatre ecosystem.”
Walker says local theatres have come together during the current crisis to support one another. “The theatre community is a close-knit one,” she said. “The level of support of one another has become very clear with the recent reaction to COVID issues. Artists are supporting each other artistically, financially, and emotionally.”
Still, this unexpected time going dark is a challenge for all independent theatres. Co-founder Kalil said, “In the aftermath of our industry’s unprecedented and costly shutdown, we will more than ever need small arts organizations like ours to continue pushing boundaries and providing accessible and affordable art in the Nation’s Capital.”
Walker says outside-the-box community partnerships — like Pointless’s teaming up with local tree canopy protection nonprofit Casey Trees for the climate change-centered “Rite of Spring” and with Moms Demand Action for “Forest Treás,” which examined gun violence through the lens of the 2002 Beltway Sniper crisis.
Pointless Theatre is looking beyond the current strange days to its next production and beyond. The troupe’s 2021 Mainstage production is slated to be a puppet-ballet adaptation of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by co-artistic director Reckeweg with original music by Mike Winch.
“We have been producing for over 10 years as an artistic family,” Kalil said. “As we enter the next decade of projects and challenges, we hope to continue providing the D.C. community with innovate, experimental and — most importantly — spectacularly entertaining live performances.”
For more information on Pointless Theatre, visit PointlessTheatre.com.