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Work Samples

8 Short Plays Excerpts

"8 Short Plays" is a surreal vaudevillian variety show with a narrative woven through.

Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh Excerpts

Our Character is reluctant to invite you to join her at the kitchen table when she is on tour in Pittsburgh, though she really wants you there!

Artist House

Artist House
The Artist was heavy with the smell of poised and readiness but is running into some self-doubt.

Flood of Emotions Excerpts

What was so strange about the dress in the dream?

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About Theresa

Baltimore City

Theresa Columbus's picture
Theresa Columbus is a performance artist, playwright, filmmaker, and organizer. She has performed extensively in venues across the country, including the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the Transmodern Festival, and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  She has created, co-directed, and acted in many film and video projects which have screened at Anthology Film Archives among other festivals and theaters. In addition to other Baltimore projects, she co-organized “Kidult: the Kids and Adults... more

8 Short Plays

Written by Theresa Columbus , with individual acts by Cliff Doby, Malaika Aminata Clements, Rae Red and Megan Livingston
Co-directed by Sarah Jacklin and Theresa Columbus

The cast: Malaika Clements, Theresa Columbus, Cliff Doby, Sarah Jacklin, Elvis Karegeya, Megan Livingston, Parker Matthews and Rae Red Music by Allison Clendaniel Costumes by Nicolette LeFaye Set by Mika Nakano Lighting by Chris Allen Video shot by Andy Shenker and Tom Kessler Performed for 3 weekends, 9 shows at the Mercury Theater in Baltimore, and performed in part at the Space Gallery in Pittsburgh and Rhizome in DC (2019)

8 Short Plays is a surreal vaudevillian variety show. The plot of this poetic dialogue is performed by an ensemble of 8 and held together with a wild emotional logic. These passionate stories explore relationships to memory, art, and song.

A live experiment holding the audience responsible for absorbing a universe where frolic & logic exist together, the cast employs humor and storytelling to unfurl unexpected connections and the wonder of humans on stage. In the process traditional forms are celebrated, taken apart, and reinvented.

  • Final Bow

    8 Short Plays
    The cast of "8 Short Plays" takes a final bow.
  • 8 Short Plays Excerpts

    "8 Short Plays" is a surreal vaudevillian variety show with a narrative woven through.
  • People Dressed Sophisticated

    8 Short Plays
    3 people in the cafe (the 3 Fates?) take note as Wingle expresses his concerns and Debonair Man looks irritated in the background.
  • 2 Sisters

    8 Short Plays
    One sister describes how the other gave her a prize by telling her she was really smart.
  • Bean Song

    8 Short Plays
    Artistalapa sings about waking up with "7 Beans" stuck to her leg, and by the end of the song she finally has made bean windows (a metaphor).
  • Cliff Doby

    8 Short Plays: Cliff Doby
    Cliff Doby performs his ACT!
  • Private Scene

    8 Short Plays
    Blint tells Fathom that repression can be sexy sometimes.
  • All a Song Is

    8 Short Plays
    The cast sings "All a Song Is, is some words that you sing and you memorize them that way."
  • Poster for the Show

    Poster design by Caleb Ali Miller

    PDF icon Poster for the Show
  • 8 Short Plays Script

    The script of "8 Short Plays" was written by Theresa Columbus. The song "It's Comin'" was written in collaboration with Xavier Leplae. Not included in the script are the 4 acts created by Malaika Aminata Clements, Cliff Doby, Megan Livingston, and Rae Red.

    PDF icon 8 Short Plays Script

Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh

Written and recorded by Theresa Columbus
Video recording by Dan Zinkevich and Andy Shenker
Performed at the Whole Gallery and the Undercroft, Baltimore (2019)

We encounter Our Character early one morning writing a performance piece in Pittsburgh. Or are we at that actual performance when we encounter her? Well, one thing is for sure, amazing and odd things just seem to happen when she sits down to write. Right before her eyes, with an audience watching her, a gray furry cat has run up a tree and is staring right at her. A large red cat is right behind him, but can’t climb as high- what will happen? It is a little harder to write when other people are in the kitchen, but don’t feel bad- no really, you are invited; she may have seemed a little unwelcoming at first, but there must have been some mix up with the time. Together you can explore what an audience really wants, the importance of thinking events over, the nature of seduction and confidence, and subtleties of creating dance moves in the morning. So, really, you don’t have to leave.

  • Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh Excerpts

    Our Character is reluctant to invite you to join her at the kitchen table when she is on tour in Pittsburgh, though she really wants you there!
  • At the Table

    Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh
    "I'm at a table in Pittsburgh; we just performed last night."
  • Writing in Pittsburgh

    Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh
    Our Character seems to enjoy writing with the company of the audience.
  • Thinking it Over

    Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh
    Our Character wonders if she spends too much time thinking about what already happened.
  • Power Stance

    Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh
    She saw it on a TED talk.
  • Standing Still

    Perched at a Table in Pittsburgh
    Our Character takes on a slightly confrontational tone as she stands still and asks the audience, "What do you want from me?"

Artist House

"Artist House," written and performed by Theresa Columbus
Video shot by Hoesy Corona (stills taken from video)

"Artist House" (with a little wink to Judy Chicago's Womanhouse) is a tale of a woman in her studio/ home/ on a stage where she encounters and faces head-on many challenges: writer's block, self doubt about her stand-up comedy routine being funny, audience members trying to get too intimate, a visit from a friend who won't give her any phoophoo nuts, exposing her intentions too fast, and destroying things she deeply cares about. Luckily, she is able to "wriggle her way out of ensnaring self doubt with some music," and keep it moving. Speaking and singing along with her prerecorded voice, the premeditated mixed with spontaneous quality of her words is magnified, as is oddness of a performer speaking thoughts directly to an audience. Through speaking, writing, singing, dancing, and a funny costume change, the artist celebrating the difficulty, strangeness, and intense joy of creating and connecting.

  • At the Bathroom Door

    Artist House
    Her heart is knocking yearningly at the empty bathroom door...
  • No Frolicsome Water

    The Artist was so excited to write, but somehow lost her train of thought and confidence this morning, and describes how soft towels are not absorbing the frolicsome water that the shower provides.
  • Self Doubt

    Artist House
    "Forget it!"
  • Dancing in Artist House

    Artist House
    "Time doesn't matter exactly what time it is."
  • Dancing in Artist House

    Artist House
    Artist "wriggles her way out of ensnaring self doubt with some music," singing and dancing!
  • Dialogue with "The Voice"

    Artist House
    "Of course she is the voice that represents you, in my IMAGINATION."

A Flood of Emotions

Written and directed by Theresa Columbus
Comedy sketch written in collaboration with: Jinnene Ross
Music by Aaron Smith, Ruby Fulton, Liz Downing (DC performance) and Theresa Columbus

Cast: Stephanie Barber, Malaika Clements (Psychic Readings performance), Theresa Columbus, John Eaton, Moss Froom, Megan Livingston (Fields Fest and DC performance), Aaron Smith

Stage manager: Lauren Kane
Video shot by: Sonya Norko

What was so strange about the dress in the dream? How can your friends appear at your desk early in the morning? Will there be a flood of emotions? How do you write a song of deep friend love to someone? Can you over-analyze humor? What happens to a dream when you write it down, and what happens when you perform a play on one Wednesday night 25 years ago and it is deep?

First performed as part of the Late Night Series at Psychic Readings in 2016, then at Fields Festival in Darlington MD, and finally at the DC Arts Center in 2017, "A Flood of Emotions" attempts to answer these questions as it bounces back and forth between the studio where the play is being written and the bar the night before that inspired it. People bond through doing and making theater, and also by loving their friendships.

  • Flood of Emotions excerpts

    What was so strange about the dress in the dream?
  • The Dream Notebook

    Flood of Emotions
    While cleaning the desk, Zot and Zeg hear mysterious sounds and are drawn to the dream notebook.
  • Backdrop

    Flood of Emotions
    The cloth that separates the morning world from the previous night.
  • At Your Desk

    Flood of Emotions
    "I will be at your desk, if you just write a little song!"
  • Stand Up Comedy

    Flood of Emotions
    I'm with #1 Comedian
  • Singing to Scompaly

    Flood of Emotions
    "And I think you oughtta know, right here at my heart's door, you've been a good friend to me."
  • The Musicians

    Flood of Emotions
    Musicians play music, creating a flood of emotions.
  • Poses

    Flood of Emotions
    The cast freezes in emotional poses.
  • Body Formation

    Flood of Emotions
    All the different heads tell about a time in high school when they were in a small ensemble piece with lots of movement where they all wore black turtle necks and it was really good.
  • Musicians

    Flood of Emotions
    Musicians play mysterious songs.

Love Trilogy

Written and directed by Theresa Columbus
Sound recording by Aaron Smith

Cast: Linda Campbell Franklin, Theresa Columbus, Aaron Smith, Jake Budenz (dancing)
Performed at Worlds in Collusion as part of Artscape in 2015

“Love Trilogy” is a collection of 3 short plays written within a year’s time, navigating the sheer joys and the huge doubts and frustrations that can accompany romantic relationships. In the first play, “I Will Dance for You,” rejoicing in Joni Mitchell’s racier lyrics and bursting with giddy optimism, the artist (Columbus) and her lover (Aaron Smith) act out her thoughts about the relationship. She puts her words in his mouth, but at the same time often quotes him, putting his words in her work as well as in her mouth. The two act out their own prerecorded voices, and play with the trope of musical theater.

The second play in the trilogy is entitled “New Years Day 2015,” and chronicles one of the saddest and most yearning days of their 5 year relationship. Throwing away a little piece of nature from her hometown he had given her on a walk links her to the act of destroying precious things dating back to her earliest memories. This scene takes place between her and a good friend (her writing? her conscience? …or maybe a good friend.)

The third play in the trilogy, “The Second Dawn of the Year,” speaks to the poetry that follows these most intense relationship days, the artist reaching for words to help express what seems like volumes of conflicting emotions. Technology is a metaphor for emotional difficulties, cardinals and shadows metaphors for poetry and what works. Smith sings a song that he wrote in the first year of their love, and explore the way words inspire and resonate and adhere to people as they become part of each others’ lives.

The Refrigerator is Making Crazy Noises

Written and performed by Theresa Columbus
Sound recording by Aaron Smith

First performed at the Holy Underground in 2014, then on tour in Pittsburgh, Rochester, Toronto, Quebec and Providence.

The Refrigerator is Making Crazy Noises reflects an arrangement of thoughts a person has when inspired in the middle of the night. These thoughts are stylized and self conscious of the act of writing, and contain musings on editing, promises to self, fashion, and not being in love with everything. With a recurring mystery punchline "This is a full term baby!" and other lines delivered sporadically, we watch our performer navigate through common and uncommon phrases with an urgency to translate something. Garnished with song, dance, and even a flailing sock puppet, she narrates these phrases and also connects with the audience by talking about and delivering letters to them.

Theater Room in Rooms Play

Installation and performance by Theresa Columbus
Room constructed with the help of Copy Cat Theater
Costume made by Melissa Webb and Theresa Columbus

Rooms Play was an enormous undertaking by the Copy Cat Theater and the artists that participated. The installation/performance stretched across two large art spaces (The Whole gallery at the H + H and the Current gallery) with a walk in between the buildings. Audience members went through 22 rooms 3 at a time, experiencing 22 different installation/ performances, which took them roughly an hour. The second year of its performance, Rooms Play drew inspiration from Joseph Campbell's mono-myth, each room representing a different stage of the story of the epic journey that has been repeated in many cultures throughout history. The performance had the theme of immigration, and the trials and rewards of being an immigrant in a foreign country.
In the room Columbus produced, the hero (audience members) had completed their major accomplishment, and had just been induced by the previous room's character to forget about completing their journey, but instead remain in the comfort of their newly acquired status as a hero in a new place. Columbus's job was to induce them to get back to what they had intended to do. She burst into a room where they had been treated as children by their kindly grandmother, reminding them that they need to be on stage: "the show is starting in 2 minutes!" They warmed up backstage, and then the performers let loose a rendition of a personal memory, all together, to an audience of a lot of papers with writing and drawings on them (and Columbus). The drama of being on stage and pouring out is what they needed to make their heroic decisions with a clear mind.

  • Rooms Play Installation and Performance

    Theater Room
    The audience discovers they are being watched by an audience of one human and many drawings.
  • The Theater Room

    Theater Room
    In the "Theater Room," the heroes remember who they are and the purpose of their journey.
  • Close-up

    Theater Room
    The papers in the "Theater Room" have many drawings and exciting writings.
  • Writing

    Theater Room
    Writing about the nervous system and art

Decision is a Choice

Written and performed by Theresa Columbus
Originally performed with: Jenny Sage, Carrie Fucile, John Alex Lind, and Whitney Simpkins.

Performed as part of "Puss Fusst" Nov. 2012, The "12 12 12 Show" in Milwaukee Wisconsin at the Redline, Dec. 12, 2012, as part of the opening of Ink Press Productions in spring of 2013, as part of the Martha Wison exhibit at the INOVA gallery in Milwaukee in Aug. 2013, and as part of Gabfestry in Machias Maine in Aug. 2013. (see www.gabfestry.org)

You, the audience member, have entered the artist's private/extroverted space, which has the air of backstage, painter's studio, and bedroom. The artist warms up, draws, works on a piece of art made mostly out of fabric, dances, sings, and makes an audio recording of a play, all with the cherished company of mysterious, mysterious audience members. The audio play is about conversation, how things are very funny and not funny, clarity, and profound longing. The song is about how you can love a lover, friends, and doing different kinds of work.

  • A Plant from the Audience

    Decision is a Choice
    A "volunteer" comes to stage and knows all the choreography.
  • Working on Art

    Decision is a Choice
    The artist adds color to her "painting."
  • Singing

    Decision is a Choice
    The artist sings about getting "the roundabout underwing," or taking care of her art and people in her life.
  • The Technology Room

    Decision is a Choice
    The artist has fun with friends in the Technology Room.
  • Sharing a Video

    Decision is a Choice
    The artist shares a video of a dialogue she made in Greece.
  • Performing a Play

    Decision is a Choice
    Artist asks "volunteer" if she would like to perform a play during the performance.

Scenes Play

Written by Theresa Columbus
Co-Directed by Joy Davis and Theresa Columbus
Starring Autumn Breaud, John Bylander, Theresa Columbus, M. Jane Taylor, and Elizabeth Zacharia
With Tiffany DeFoe on saxophone
Costumes made in collaboration with Melissa Webb
Performed at the Annex Theater in June 2009; at the Barn in Brooklyn and PIFAS in Philadelphia in August 2009
Video shot by Christine Ferrera

Scenes Play jumps between the quality of daring yourself to tell people things you kind of don't want them to know, and proclaiming joyfully what you know about friendship, art, family, love, and how things can be put together. The title "Scenes Play" points to the way each scene has its own manner of relaying ideas self-conscious about its structure, yet each uses a colorful combination of characters and interactions between them to convey something often painfully true but also funny about relationships between people or between people and art. Poking fun of her tendency to be overwhelmed by the importance of everything people say and do, Columbus's self-reflexive musings are textured and transformed by brilliant actors who perform characters, break up monologues into random pieces, interact with costumes which also serve as backdrops, and perform experimental movement. This piece grabs gleefully from different theatrical tropes, presenting sometimes mundane musings in a myriad of lights and shapes.

Chaza Show Choir

Film co-directed by Theresa Columbus and Didier Leplae
Music written by Didier Leplae, Columbus and the Chaza Orchestra: Peter Barrickman, John Fletcher, Jen Emma Hertel, and Jason Tucker

Cast: Stephanie Barber, Peter Barrickman, Sara Boland, Theresa Columbus, Peter DiAntoni, John Fletcher, Karyn Halmstad, Jen Hertel, Anna Diantoni, India Lathon, Micca Leider, Alyssa Leighton, Didier Leplae, Xav Leplae, Kiara McFarland-Caldwell, Melissa Scherrer, Sativa Silver, Sheila Spargur, Thidapha Thongsavanh, Jason Tucker, Eric Ziegeweid

"Chaza Show Choir" was created in 1999 as a 90 minute play with a cast of more than 20 that performed in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, and Providence. The play was written and directed by Columbus, with music written by Didier Leplae, Columbus and the Chaza Orchestra: Peter Barrickman, John Fletcher, Jen Emma Hertel, and Jason Tucker. A spirit of collaboration filled the process of creating this narrative over a 6 month period, with countless volunteers creating costumes, sets, props and offering ideas for the play. The group went on tour in the summer of 1999. Upon return, Columbus and Leplae immediately started the process of creating a film version of "Chaza Show Choir," a feature length black and white 35mm film which was released in 2004 and won a first place award at the Madison Film Festival. In 2015 "Chaza" was shown at the Anthology Film Archives in New York and the Charles Theater in Baltimore.

(A complete list of film credits can be requested at [email protected])

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