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Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble presents reading

Though Valentine’s Day is often spent with loved ones or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, a local theater group invites audiences to spend the holiday with some monkeys.

The Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble is presenting a reading of “Shooting Star,” a play by Steve Dietz, Tuesday.

In 2007, 14 Ohio University faculty members and local actors created Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble, said Merri Biechler, managing director for the ensemble.

The company was createdto “challenge, engage and inspire the residents of the community with explosive and thought-provoking theater,” according to the group’s mission statement.

The ensemble also filled a unique need of many of the actors and technical workers.

“The majority of us who created the group are professional actors,” Biechler said. “We are in the union, so we can’t work locally without a union contract. We thought it was silly we had to travel to work.”

The ensemble has performed at several Tony-award winning stages such as the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in Cincinnati and Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, according to the group’s website. Several members have also written for major television shows on HBO and ABC.

The group performs about four to five “script-in-hand readings” per year. This means there is little to no set or rehearsal time before the performance and actors will hold the scripts as they perform.

Janice Evans, an actor with Brick Monkey, said that this format provides an unusual experience for the audience.

“Many of the audience members equate it to reading a book,” Evans said. “They are able to use their imaginations.”

The first in the series of shows this year is “Shooting Star.” The show is a comedy about two former college lovers that are reunited when they are snowed-in at an airport.

The show features two actors, Janice Evans and Brian Evans.

Janice, who has been with Brick Monkey for two years, plays Elena, a woman who, despite her middle age, has stayed true to her hippie roots, unlike her college boyfriend, Reed.

“She's working on letting go of the past, getting over an old flame, accepting life as it is even though it's different from what she expected,” Evans said of her character. “She's finding out what really does matter to her, making peace with all her past choices, and ready to embrace life's new adventures.”

Though there are many theater troupes in Athens, Biechler said that Brick Monkey offers something different.

“We have been a part of starting a theater company before, so were not newcomers,” Biechler said. “I think that we bring a lot of experience to the group.”

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