The word “cult” generally brings to mind delusional group leaders, brainwashed followers and teachings with creepy religious undertones. But, it is an alternate view of “cult” that inspired “Follow the Leader,” a new collection of seven 10-minute plays set to premiere at Triskelion Arts next month.
The series, about such topics as high school bullies, gymnastics and the online fantasy world, will be presented by Panicked Productions, a Williamsburg-based non-profit that aims to bring thoughtful theater to the neighborhood. Rob Egginton, a partner of the theater group and the plays’ director said, “For us, there is something very intriguing and interesting about cults in general. It’s more about the mentality of cults. We were pretty careful not to use that word too much in describing the shows. We are trying to expose every day life as being very cult like. We’re giving people another look into it to reexamine what they think of cults.”
Egginton also wrote two of the plays. “Replacing the Hendersons” is a comedy about a dinner party. A couple invites their new neighbors over, but can’t get over the fact that their old neighbors are gone. This leads to deadly consequences. “Fat Jesus” is a more dramatic tale about a personal trainer who discovers he may be training an infamous cult leader.
Glenn and Jessica De Kler, longtime Williamsburg residents and theater enthusiasts, run Panicked Productions, which has a history of participating in the Midtown International Theater Festival. Glenn’s pieces, “Inside” and “What’s On My Mind?” deal with two sisters who start to question the cult they belong to and the struggle between a high schooler and his imagination, respectively.
After the shows were written, Panicked Productions brought the community into the conversation, holding informal readings to get feedback. “All of the results of the shows really surprised us,” said Glenn. “The plays are really funny. There are some dark ones too but there is a good range. You go on quite a journey with these different shows.”
The De Klers are excited to bring their style of theater to North Brooklyn. “I think our stories are interesting, fun, original, and raw indie theater,” said Jessica. “I think that suits this neighborhood perfectly. People here aren’t going to see ‘Jersey Boys’ on Broadway. They want to see something more raw and real but with theatricality and magic to it. If it doesn’t have that, it’s not theater.”
Above all, Jessica said, Panicked Productions’ goal is to tell a good story. “We are storytellers and the story is the most important thing to us. That is where you start and that is where you should always go back to.”
Follow the Leader
118 N. 11th Street
February 2 through February 25