by Pamela Rogow
Can an accounting degree prepare one for a life in the theater? That question has been dodging Chestnut Hill resident Alex Dremann ever since he graduated from the University of Delaware, 25 years ago.
A data analyst by day and playwright by night and weekend, Alex is currently presenting two collections of mini-plays this season of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, both at the Adrienne Theater’s Second Stage. For the past two years, the shows produced by Secret Room Theatre, which he founded in 2007, generally sold out.
This year’s Dremann shows, “Likety Skits” and “Wired,” are fast-paced compilations of mini-plays, with different directors and cast changes. “There’s not much outlet in Philadelphia for short plays,” said Dremann, 45, who wears his producer’s hat for the Fringe, “but short plays are great for getting an audience. Mostly, we get directors we like, and they cast their own groups.
“Early this year, we put out a call throughout the country for scripts for little plays. I’m unsure how many have ever been produced. Speed is the number one factor that holds them together. A new location, plot and actors every five minutes.”
As to an overarching theme, “It’s as broad as possible. We want the audience to go on a journey. The lack of a theme is what we were after. You don’t know what you’re getting next.” Altogether, “Likety” has 16 actors — four groups of four actors each, and four directors all told. So each director guides four or five plays. No actor does two plays in a row.
“And there’s one biggie at the end. When it comes all together, it’s really cool,” Dremann promises.
His other Fringe mini-play collection, “Wired,” is loosely about our caffeinated and digital lives. Ah, there’s the data analyst sneaking onto the stage. “Wired” also features several monologues and video, and has five directors for 11 actors. Its mini-plays are longer than those in “Likety,” at about 20 minutes each.
As to the “completely different sides of my brain,” Dremann said, “It’s not simple, but I turn one side off and turn the other one on. I do playwriting all night long. If I’ve an hour for lunch, I think, OK, I’ll write a play, but it is getting tougher to switch back and forth, ramping up and ramping down.”
Dremann has lived in Philadelphia for a decade, back here after a dozen years in Los Angeles. Growing up near Phoenixville, Dremann wrote fiction throughout high school.
During college, he experimented with the idea of becoming a screenwriter and wrote a play with 120 pages in the first act alone. “The teacher said, ‘You can’t take 15 pages for a scene in a film that takes place in a coffee shop.’ His advice was, ‘You need to do plays.’ He was right. My rhythm and temperament are better for playwriting. I like to explore the character and situation and don’t want to go back and forth, jump-cut to a car chase in Italy, then jump-cut to an ashram in India. No, let’s stay in that room and figure how to work it out. I like to stay put for that.”
Since Dremann founded Secret Room Theater in 2007, he has produced six shows, all for the Fringe Festival except for one that opened for the Theatre Alliance’s festival, SPARK.
Zounds! To think you can take in two of his mini-plays in the time it took to read this article.
“Lickety Skits” will be performed Sept. 9, 10, 11 and 14. “Wired” will be performed Sept. 8, 10, 15 and 17. Both will be at the 2nd Stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St. For tickets and information: www.livearts-fringe.org or 215-413-1318. More on Alex’s company at www.secretroomtheatre.com.