“The Leader” Is a Provocative Program of One-Act Plays by Eugene Ionesco and Other Playwrights

Bare Theatre of Raleigh will present "The Leader," a program of one-act plays about politics by Eugene Ionesco and others, on Oct. 25-28 at Common Ground Theatre in Durham and on Nov. 3, 4, and 8-11 at the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh
Bare Theatre of Raleigh will present “The Leader,” a program of one-act plays about politics by Eugene Ionesco and others, on Oct. 25-28 at Common Ground Theatre in Durham and on Nov. 3, 4, and 8-11 at the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh

Just in time for the nationwide General Election on Nov. 6th, Bare Theatre of Raleigh, NC is presenting The Leader, a program of one-act plays about politics, including “The Leader” by Romanian and French playwright provocateur Eugene Ionesco (1909-94), on Oct. 25-28 at Common Ground Theatre in Durham and on Nov. 3, 4, and 8-11 at the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh.

According to Bare Theatre:

“With one of the most decisive elections in United States history approaching, Bare Theatre uses Eugene Ionesco’s 1953 absurdist comedy ‘The Leader’ as the centerpiece of a collection of pieces to capture the sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing implications of following a leader. This bizarre story raises questions about human nature and leadership without being specific to time, place, or person.

“[The Leader] will feature, in addition to the Ionesco play and other vignettes: clowns performing [Transportation Security Administration]-style security checkpoints, a brief look at the most impactful leaders in world history, a presentation on ‘The Anatomy of a Leader,’ fun with lemmings, and a choreographed game of ‘king of the hill’ with sinister turns.”

“I saw a production about 17 years ago that gave me the idea for this show,” reveals Bare Theatre managing director G. Todd Buker. “The Eugene Ionesco play, ‘The Leader,’ is very short; but the students who put it on created a series of original vignettes to go along with it and fill out a full evening.

Buker, who will serve as director for this program of short plays, adds, “There’s a lot to love about this show. I’m a big fan of Absurdism and Ionesco, but this was also a great opportunity for Bare Theatre to explore clowning and devising.

“Clowning in particular is a favorite,” Buker explains, “because it breaks many standard rules of theater and the possibilities are endless. We did several workshops in the streets of downtown Raleigh, which I think was a fantastic experience for the cast. They had to approach strangers, and act ridiculous in the streets, which is exhilarating.”

Todd Buker adds, “Our show is a collection of short works, all of which deal with a leader or lack thereof, or concentrate on followers of various types. We begin with Ionesco’s play, which is very relevant today even though it was written in 1953. That play then becomes the springboard for all of the other short plays and scenes we present.

“There is a short play about the myth of lemmings’ mass suicide, another about a cult layoff, even a play written in rhyming couplets about medieval monarchs who sound very much like two well-known political parties,” says Buker.

He says, “When we originally began the process, I had whiteboard full of ideas that the ensemble had come up with. We also had several short plays from Chuck Keith, who shares writing credit on the project. The most difficult part for me was deciding what to keep and what to let go, and conveying an overall vision to the cast when we were creating it together on the fly.

The Bare Theatre cast for The Leader includes (in alphabetical order) Loren Armitage, Jeff Buckner, Patrick Cox, Matt Fields, Matthew Hager, Joanna Herath, Diana McQueen, Stephen Wall, and Cassandra Wladyslava.

“The cast is the creative team,” claims The Leader’s director Todd Buker, “and I suspect they may say that devising and some of the clown exercises were the most difficult. Two exercises in particular – one in which they had to ask insane questions to strangers on the street (with no costume or makeup on to indicate they were performing), and another in which they had to enter a room and try to stand in a box using some basic rules of clowning. That sounds easy, I know, but it’s actually one of the most difficult exercises, because the clown repeatedly has to start over.”

In addition to director Todd Buker, who doubles as lighting and sound designer for The Leader, the Bare Theatre creative team for the show includes physical/fight choreographer Heather J. Strickland, assisted by Jason Bailey; costume designers Susan Buker and Mollie Earls; and stage manager Emily Huffman. (Strickland is the artistic director of Bare Theatre.)

In keeping with the Raleigh-based theater company’s name and reputation for no-frills productions, Todd Buker says, the set for The Leader is a “Bare stage, only a walk-through metal detector, a platform, a projector screen, and a coat rack.

He adds, “Each scene is lit according to the needs of the script and the mood. A strobe light is used during the final scene.”

Buker says, “The cast uses base costumes of a white tank top and black pants, with other pieces such as shirts, coats, tabards, and dresses being used for various scenes. The most unusual costumes are for a short play in which the actors play sperm cells.”

The Leader director Todd Buker says, “While this show does coincide with the 2012 election, it is not political in any way, and does not directly address the current candidates. This collection is intended as thought-provoking entertainment that will hopefully give the audience lots of laughs.”

He adds, “The show is suitable for most ages, except for possibly very young children. There is a little bit of adult language, and some adult themes. It is also worth noting that the show contains a few loud gunshots onstage, and a strobe light is used. Onstage violence is mostly stylized and not graphic in nature.”

Bare Theatre presents THE LEADER at 8 p.m. Oct. 25-27 and 2 p.m. Oct. 28 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705; and at 8 p.m. Nov. 3, 2 p.m. Nov. 4, 8 p.m. Nov. 8-10, and 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Visual Art Exchange, 309 W. Martin St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $17 ($10 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).


Durham Shows: 919-322-8819, boxoffice@baretheatre.org, or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/272680.

Raleigh Shows: 919-322-8819, boxoffice@baretheatre.org, or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/272684.

SHOW: http://www.baretheatre.org/leader.html.

VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6yVSNhonUQ&feature=player_embedded#!.

SEASON: http://www.baretheatre.org/upcoming.html.

PRESENTER: http://www.baretheatre.org/.


Common Ground Theatre: http://www.cgtheatre.com/ (directions/parking: http://www.cgtheatre.com/directions).

Visual Art Exchange: http://visualartexchange.org/ (directions/parking: http://visualartexchange.org/about/contact/).


G. Todd Buker: http://gtoddbuker.com/ (official website).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).