What: The Agile Rascal Traveling Bike Theatre isn’t kidding about its name.
Where: The troupe performs at Hungry Ghost Bread in Northampton on Wednesday, and at the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville on Aug. 22
Three months on the road has literally changed the shape of Agile Rascal Traveling Bike Theatre’s national tour of “Sunlight on the Brink.” The play about “capitalism, spirituality, and technology” centers on a mass exodus from California caused by a catastrophic drought. For starters, the set has gotten considerably more minimalist since the Bay Area troupe of seven pedaled away from home in late May.
“We left Oakland with three trailers full of stuff, full of food and set things and extra clothes, and now we don’t have any trailers, and our set at least has been cut down by two-thirds,” says member Allison Fenner, on the phone from London, Ontario.
The sewn and dyed backdrop of a desert gas station and nearby mesas got smaller, and the prop cars and gas pump got less elaborate. But the sometimes arduous trip through Santa Monica, Tucson, Denver, and Chicago, among other cities, has connected the hard-pedaling troupe more deeply to the global-warming refugees in the play, Fenner says.
“There were portions of our journey through Arizona where there weren’t gas stations or any kind of civilization for a whole day’s ride, and we had to plan accordingly,” Fenner says. “That was kind of an exciting challenge: Are we gonna dump this water on ourselves to stay cool, or does that mean we won’t have enough water to drink 20 miles down the road?
“The most difficult thing was that none of us have ever done anything like this before. We all had to figure out how to travel and live in this way,” Fenner says. “But once we’re all on the road, it’s pretty nice riding together.”
Avid biker and Bay Area playwright Dara Silverman, a Lexington High School graduate, hatched the idea for the trip last year and advertised for fellow travelers. Fenner was one of the first to sign up. Silverman wrote the script but all of the group helped create the devised theater piece through discussion and improvisation. A final group of five women and two men took it on the road, with help and accommodations depending on friends, acquaintances, host groups, and occasionally the kindness of strangers.
“We couldn’t really know what this trip would bring up, what we would learn,” Silverman says. “The play has gotten richer and more complex. We’re biking across the desert and the need for water became so physical. It all becomes so much more real when you’re living inside of this space where the play takes place.”
Joel Brown can be reached at email@example.com