PLether Productions was actually the second configuration of the theatre company founded by Michael Orick and Ken Feinsod in April of 1993 called P3. This stood for Pseudonomix Productions Presents. Pea cubed was all about anonymity. Real names were never used. Real drugs, on the other hand were. In April of 1993, Mike and Ken put out the first of two zines that started them off on this path. The first was called McZeen. It was a collection of poems and short stories featuring drawings by a local artist. While doing a reading of the zine at the illustrious Retro Cafe on Soquel Street in Santa Cruz, the manager offered the space as a theatre for basically any project they wanted to do. They jumped at the offer and set a date for the first production. They would perform one play at 10:00pm and a second one at 12midnight.
On a Friday night in May of 1993, Harriet and Zon Read Apocalyptic Mannerisms with a interlude with Billy along with Insatiable Salivation were the first offerings from Pee Kuubed. Each play ran about 30-40 minutes and featured Amy Denker as well as Ken and Mike. These three formed the core of the group that would pump out 6 more plays before 1993 would end. Harriet and Zon, the first play on the playbill was written by Michael and set the tone for what pppQueubed would be known for, a theatrical style that broke down the fourth wall and included the audience almost as another cast member. In H and Z, both time and plot lines zig-zag around. By the end the play has turned itself inside out.
Insatiable Salivation is the story of a sad sack Satan who is looking to change his life. His hilarious and harrowing interaction with a Catholic Priest at a confessional forms the bulk of this play. Pop references, broken down barriers, blood capsules and musical blurbs are all thrown in to thoroughly shake up and provoke thought in the audience. This was Mike and Ken's first collaberation and opened the doors to there collective unconciouses which turned out to be a very frightening and eyeopening landscape.
The night was a success. Small audiences in a small cafe joined adrenaline and copious amounts of marijuana to form an evening that would seduce its young performers into a new lifestyle blah blah blah...
Next performance came about six weeks later. It would mimic the first one with a similar playbil style. Insatiable Salivation played at 10pm, at midnight Safe Death would premier.
Safe Death continued pushing the envelope. There were 3 basic scenes repeated twice in this play. The main themes being the constant struggle between activism and apathy, with cannabalism thrown in for good measure. In this play as well the playwrights explored sound effects being employed that were louder then dialogue creating a cacophony of sounds that irritated as well as titillated the audience. Also in the play the script called for a heckler in the audience to engage the actors in argument and eventually get thrown out of the theatre. This ploy worked so well that on occasion, other audience members almost got involved in the physical confrontation between said "heckler" and the cafe manager who played himself bouncing the troublemaker.
Again, P3 experienced success. This embued the guys with a feeling of indestructability. The small yet crucial success they were having excited them and gave them the motivation to go on making productions, despite the lack of funds, and the occasional emotional problems that they encountered.
At this point, the crew was going completely crazy with creativity. The chunk was flowing so heavily that sometimes the english language was not seen at the Wilkes Street headquarters for many hours at a time.
The next play that P Q'bd put on was it's most ambitious to date. Caffeine was the first production that had a significant cast. Around 15 people were involved in one way or another. Caffeine saw p3 get its first larger scale audience and opened the doors to all sorts of new possibilites. This play took place in a futuristic cafe where the government subsidized all caffeine. The play dealt with certain gender issues and to hammer its point home, all the male actors played women and all the female actors played men.
This play was the first that was presented twice over two weekends.
In the winter of 1993, two plays were put on simultaneously. Henry's Gun and Santa In Lights. This was a challenge that perhaps stretched the group too much. Although both plays were very successfully mounted, by the time they were over, this manifestation of the theatre company was splintered and broken.
HG was a spiraling descent into paronoid schizophrenic madness. A homocidal, suicidal exploration of the human psyche. It was the first play where live music accompanied the action. Bob Burns, one half of the very well respected Vishnu's Secret, played a demonic cello during nightmare scenes showing different personalities inside one confused fellow's head attacking a damaging each other. Vishnu's Secret also provided intermission entertainment. This was also the first play where Head Case-O-Matic, Ken's band (with Cooper Hazen, a duo at the time), recorded soundtrack music for the production. (Follow this link to see a very outdated Head Case page with what appears to be undownloadable music)(Head Case broke up in 1997)
Thus the birth of PLether Productions. Still a form of the three p's concept, PLether's first production was Paying Your Dues. A 2 1/2 hour mammoth with no intermission. PYD was produced in April of 1994 and opened on April 14th, a date that Ken had heard many years earlier would be the end of the world according to some tripping hippy's rendition of Aleister Crowly's prophesy's. Hmmmmmmm. Well the way they saw it, possibly the play would never open. And indeed it almost didn't. The first space that PYD was to play was to be a new performance space in the back of a new cafe in Santa Cruz. Unfortunately after tickets were already printed it became clear the space would not be ready in time. Luckily the now defunct Abadabatoir was available and that is where PYD first played.
PYD got press and attention to the theatre company.
The Satan Claus 1994
The Santavirus 1995
Dumb Yourself Down 1996
Ho Ho Holy Shit! 1996
The Interactive Theatre Parties
In 1997 the lives of the main writers and producers of PLether's productions had become complicated and busy. When winter rolled around, the only way to keep alive the winter theatre experience was to create a production that would require less rehearsal time. Thus, the interactive theatre party. The first one was Santa's Focus Group in 1997.
SFG was held at Ken and Amy's house in Bayview, SF. Invitations were sent out with vague descriptions of the party and when people sent in RSVP they were sent characters, maps, background information and some basic plot. They were then told to be prepared to be in character from beginning to end and to remember that they are the play.
This first one was fun and opened the doors to this concept. But, in 1998 The Schlomo-Bernini Affair> would take the concept so much higher. The SBA revolved around two characters Frederico Bernini and Ethel Schlomo. The basic concept was a non-denominational holiday party to introduce the members of their respective families following an eloped marriage. Around 120 people rsvp'd to the SBA and the only audience there was the Karaoke/DJ who had been hired to host the party without being told that it was theatre. From the early preparation until sweeping up in the early am, the characterization and acting was hilarious and brilliant.
The Chunky Swellness Charity Bowl 1999