The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart Brings Unconventional Theater to Bar 337

Photo by: Drew Farrell
Melody Grove enchants the audience as Prudencia Hart
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is a unique, otherworldly and exhilarating experience. Part of that comes from the fact that supernatural forces are main characters in the play. The other part stems from the play being presented in a bar.

This inventive play from the National Theatre of Scotland was a hit at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and will be performed for Miami audiences at Bar 337 from Wednesday, Feb. 19 through Sunday, Feb. 23. The play was brought to Miami through the efforts of Kathryn Garcia, executive director of MDC Live Arts.

When speaking about Prudencia Hart, Garcia said it's difficult to sum up the plot without giving away spoilers.

"It's hard to wrap up in a nutshell," Garcia said with a laugh. "Essentially, it's a love story, just like all good stories. It just happens to involve all sorts of unusual elements like the devil and karaoke. It's the story of Prudencia Hart, really. It's the story of a very uptight, rigid person who, through a ton of unexpected occurrences, learns how to open herself up to the world and open herself up to love."

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart from MDC Live Arts on Vimeo.

For Garcia, opening up wasn't so difficult. Once introduced, it was love at first sight.

"I was invited last year to see the play when it was in Washington D.C. It was the Washington Shakespeare Company that presented it," she said, mentioning that she believed the play's local stint would be the second time the play has toured in the U.S.

"I knew immediately that it had to come to Miami," she said.

The allure of the play comes from its interactive elements.

"It's kind of an out-of-the box theatrical experience. It's not the kind of thing where you go to the theater, sit down, the curtain opens, and you watch the play from your seat, removed from the action," she said. "This is completely interactive; it happens in a bar, which just makes for great fun. It happens on your table, all around you, on top of the bar. So the audience gets immersed in this out-of-this-world experience."

Wils Wilson, the director of Prudencia Hart supported Garcia's experience when talking about the origins of the play.

"It's really an idea that myself and the writer, David Greig, had been talking about for a little while; about how stories have always been told around the fire, in a pub, in a bar, in sort of a convivial space where there might be music, dancing and stories told," said Wilson. "That idea of a communal sharing of a story, getting back to the simplicity and excitement of what words can do in a room and strip away some of the conventions of theater."

The foundation of Prudencia Hart stems from the Scottish-English tradition of border ballads.

"[Border ballads] are probably not widely known in America," Wilson said, laughing. "They're a collection of narrative poems collected in the 19th century. They're kind of folk tales told in long, rhyming poems and, very often, they are songs as well. So this is where the idea of the ballad comes from," she said. "It's an old ballad form that happened to exist in the border between Scotland and England, which was always known as a kind of wild and lawless place where anything could happen."

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