Tampa’s LAB Theater Project was the first company to produce something live and in person post-outbreak, presenting The Meredith Brothers, to a super-spaced-out audience of 10 at a time, back in July. The show was also livestreamed – the pandemic-proof innovation that’s become essential in today’s theater-making.
“Like anybody else, we were new into it, and we learned an awful lot from that production,” recalls executive director Owen Robertson. “We got much better in the next one we did, our co-production with Innovocative Theater, Underneath the Lintel.” By Lies, the next LAB production, they knew what they were doing. “It lets the audience really enjoy and feel present in the space.”
Between Thursday and Sunday (Jan. 21-24), LAB is presenting its latest live and livestream hybrid. LAB Laughs is a 90-minute production consisting of eight short comedies, all performed by a cast of seven (including Robertson and the show’s co-director, Caroline Jett). Ten seats are available (in a space built for 45) for each show.
“It’s part of our annual fundraising campaign,” Robertson says. “We specialize in new work, and comedies are hard to come by in new work. Because comedy is hard! And so we don’t often get comedies in that we like enough to feel confident enough to move forward with.”
Anyway, LAB’s stock-in-trade is generally drama. The really serious kind.
“We’re trying to say to our audience ‘Here, come laugh with us. Because we really do have a sense of humor.’”
LAB Laughs was launched in 2019, and took a powder in chaos-clouded 2020.
It began with a call for submissions via several Facebook channels. Within two days, Robertson had received 160 short comedy scripts, from all over the world.
“I was dumfounded how fast it spread and how large a reach we had in the call,” says Roberston. “And it was a hard process narrowing 160 down to eight. It was really kind of humbling to realize, here’s my little theater company down in Tampa, and internationally I’m getting work in. That was fantastic.”
Three of the eight produced shorts are by Florida playwrights; one of these, Villain, was written by “Jenna B” from Clearwater.
The outpouring of submissions, Robertson believes, as well as local creatives’ interest in putting LAB Laughs on his feet, is evidence that those who trod the boards are restless.
“All of us in theater are dying to work, to be back and productive and creating,” he says.
Info and tickets are here.