Studio Theatre presents free audio plays

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Studio Theatre audio plays (Part 1)

Local theaters can’t stage live performances due to COVID-19 crowd restrictions.

So, Studio Theatre has recorded a pair of free audio plays for your enjoyment.

“Kings” is available until Jan. 24, while “I Hate It Here” is available until March 7.

“It’s a full theatrical experience, just in your ear,” Associate Artistic Director Reg Douglas told WTOP. “All the actors recorded from their homes. They were in their closets, in their bathrooms, in their bedrooms with microphones. … We were able to record their tracks individually, then over two weeks of editing put it all together.”

Written by Sarah Burgess and directed by Marti Lyons, “Kings” follows Sydney Millsap, a newly-elected congresswoman who arrives in D.C. to defy special interests and her own party. She collides with a powerful lobbyist named Kate, who only backs winners.

“It’s about the inner workings and machinations of the political cycle that we’re all stuck in whether we like it or not,” Douglas said. “We follow two lobbyists who are trying to convince an upstart congresswoman to turn to the dark side. … There is no right or wrong. It’s a play about the complicity of politics done in a funny, smart way.”

Millsap is portrayed by Gina Daniels, last seen in Studio Theatre’s “The Effect.”

“One of the American theater’s all-star actresses,” Douglas said. “She goes on this comedic ride from upstart idealist to maybe a more shrewd and experienced leader.”

Get ready for a rapid-fire repartee in a script filled with snappy dialogue.

“That same sense of fast-paced, ‘West Wing,’ in-your-ear energy,” Douglas said.

After “Kings,” make sure to check out “I Hate It Here,” following a series of stories at a high school, a protest, a wedding, a front stoop and more, peering into the lives of everyday people.

“I don’t call it a play, I call it a concept album,” writer/director Ike Holter told WTOP. “It’s all of these scenes that do not match together, these monologues and these songs that are all about a movement and a moment in time instead of a kind of throughline traditional theater plot.”

This made the recording process more conducive to socially distanced recording.

“That was really cool to record with people in different rooms and different cities even, because it’s not dependent on your scene partner as much, it’s more dependent on everyone being on the same page and delivering solo,” Holter said.

Holter, who wrote an episode of TV’s “Fosse/Verdon,” explores timely themes.

“If you listen to it, it kind of speaks to what’s going on right now,” Holter said. “There’s these scenes, monologues and stories that are just about 30 different people in the country dealing with crazy times and each of them deciding if they stand up or sit down. … We touch on various people from really different walks of life and see how they’re doing with this crazy moment we’re in.”

The music includes a mix of hip-hop and zany comedy.

“It really does feel like some of the albums I grew up on, which is a mix of Lauryn Hill, Kendrick Lamar, it feels like a compilation album instead of a sit-down theater show,” Holter said.

Best of all, did we mention that both plays are free to enjoy?

“We wanted to make it as accessible as possible,” Douglas said. “We figured everyone could really use some creative juice right now, so both plays are free. … It’s giving our audiences some great entertainment in a way that only Studio can … and artists that we love, we want to get them back to work. … That’s what we want to keep doing in the midst of these hard, harsh pandemic times.”

Here are your links to listen to “Kings” and “I Hate It Here.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Studio Theatre audio plays (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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