Jan 10, 2016

How Two Childhood Friends Turned a Bar Joke into a Stage Play

Childhood buddies Brad McEntire and Jeff Hernandez

“As ideas hatched in a bar go, this one wasn’t horrible,” says Dallas-based playwright Brad McEntire

He is referring to the concept of tarantubears – half spider, half bear monsters – that take center stage in his and Jeff Hernandez’s new play Night of the Tarantubears.

McEntire recalls going out for drinks after his childhood friend Jeff Hernandez came to see him perform his show Dinosaur and Robot Stop a Train at the Festival of Independent Theatres in 2013.

"Hernandez came up with the idea." McEntire says "It is very much the kind of joke that forms over beers when you are on your third round."

"Usually those in-the-moment jokes just fade away, but in this instance, Brad threw out the suggestion that we make it a play," Hernandez adds, "So, I said, okay. So, we did."

Hernandez and McEntire have been collaborating on projects since they met in the fourth grade. They found out they lived on the same street and ended up walking home from elementary school together most afternoons.

Throughout their school days they stayed pretty close.

“We use to walk over to the outdoor court at the local junior high and play basketball in the evenings. We’d just joke around and come up with schemes the whole time,” says McEntire. “We would dream up movies we would make, comic books we would someday draw.”

Hernandez attended Southern Methodist University after high school and earned a degree in art while McEntire headed off to the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico. He got a degree in theatre and from there to began a decade of wandering. He lived in London, New York, and eventually Hong Kong before coming back to the Dallas area.

Hernandez and McEntire picked up the creative scheming right where they left off.

They wrote, directed and performed children’s theatre together at Plano Children’s Theatre and co-wrote a one-act called Pens And Strings back in 2009. It played as part of Austin’s FronteraFest.

Another inebriated conversation at a bar back in 2012 led them to start a podcast together. They ended up calling it Bike Soccer Jamboree, after a game they use to play on the street where they grew up.

Night of the Tarantubears follows the rabbit hole of a rather bizarre “what if?”

A genetic experiment surfaces as a seemingly harmless viral internet sensation. Part bear, part spider hybrids are the latest trend. But what happens when our passing fascinations grow and things begin to go horribly horribly wrong? Five survivors hole up in an abandoned theatre as the city is overrun by genetic monstrosities.

“Hernandez is way more into social media than I currently am.” McEntire says. “I love the internet, but I view it more as a tool. He uses it more as entertainment. He gives me a hard time about geeking out over things like theatre history and playwriting. I rib him constantly about his affinity for Twitter and YouTube. This play kind of embraces both of our obsessions.”

The two drew on their overlapping interests of genre comedies, pop culture references and internet sensations.

Though Jeff Hernandez and Brad McEntire co-wrote the piece and McEntire directs, they both quickly point out how fortunate they feel to have an excellent team around them for the production.

“I’m working with a group of actors I’ve wanted to collaborate with for years.” McEntire says. “All good sports. They have been great about keying into the weird little world Jeff and I have created.”

The cast includes  Miller Pyke, Whitney Holotik, Dani Martin, Kasey Tackett and Brian Witkowicz.

McEntire’s wife, Ruth, is creating the “tarantubear” effects for the production.

“The rehearsals have been a blast,” McEntire says, then adds, “It is nice to be working with friends.”

Produced by Audacity Theatre Lab, Night of the Tarantubears opens at Margo Jones Theatre January 21, 2015 at 7:30 PM. Plays January 21 – 31, Tuesday thru Thursdays at 7:30 PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 5:00 PM. Tickets $15 and available at the door or online. Information/ reservations at: (214) 888-6650 or via email at: audacitytheatrelab@yahoo.com . The Margo Jones Theatre is located within the Magnolia Lounge, Fair Park, 1121 First Ave., Dallas, TX 75210. For more information visit: www.AudacityTheatreLab.com

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