Brendon Etter: Naked and Alone at the Northfield Arts Guild


Editor's Note: Brendon Etter's Naked and Alone runs this Friday and Saturday at the Northfield Arts Guild Theater. Marika Christofides profiles the Northfield playwright.

A member of the Carleton graduating class of 1992, Brendon Etter moved back to Northfield in 1997 with his wife and two children. As a student, he had majored in psychology, and the only play he wrote at Carleton was a short play for a scriptwriting class. He began working for the Carleton bookstore in 2000.

“I took several English classes at Carleton and I’d always thought of myself as a writer, but I never wrote anything,” Etter reflects. “I just thought, if you’re gonna call yourself a writer you have to actually write some things.”

He started writing again in 2006, this time seriously.

“I did a play a day for a year and a day,” he remembers. “They were very short - about 4 and a half pages each on average. Some were a couple sentences and some were 15 pages or more.” Since then, he has written and directed four plays at the Arts guild (Sex With 7 Women, Sex With 7 Men, Love and/or Danger, and Kiss Me Weirdly), and several of his works have been published in anthologies.

“I’ve probably written more than 500 short plays by now,” he estimates. “I think of myself as a playwright who just happens to have another job.”

Naked and Alone is a series of 16 short plays, performed by only one actor on stage at a time.

“It’s a play on the vulnerability of being up on stage alone, but it is an apt metaphor as well,” explains Etter. “You want your actors to feel like that to a certain extent. You want them to feel that they can be vulnerable so that they give a better performance.”

Out of the 16, several plays spoof the over-expressive tendencies of performance art, and two have a character interacting with a computer that “speaks” from offstage. While most of the plays are comedies, a few concern more difficult subject matter. One in particular focuses on child abuse.

“I wanted to challenge the audience with a piece that’s not comfortable at all,” says Etter. “I’ve never really been one for doing only comfortable plays.

In part because of the difficulty of overseeing 16 plays in a typical directorial sense, Etter made the artistic decision to let the actors take his scripts and run with them.

“I just said take the play and memorize it, and figure out what the person is and play it,” he says. “I don’t know what these people are going to do to my precious works, but at the same time it’s very liberating. It’s experimental that way. There are very few actors who get a chance to do a play the way they want to do it.”

All proceeds from Naked and Alone will benefit the Northfield Arts Guild.

“Arts right now are a tough sell in a lot of communities, and in the whole country.” Etters says. “That makes me feel better about doing all of these plays as fundraisers. Everything that’s raised goes back to the arts community.”

Naked and Alone will show on Friday and Saturday, March 2nd and March 3rd, 2012 at 8pm at the Northfield Arts Guild. Tickets are $10.00 each, and can be purchased through the Northfield Arts Guild website. The title of the play should not be taken as a dress code.