‘Bike Play 6’: at the intersection of theater and transport

Working Theatre Collective's free-wheelin' outdoor play meets the Pedalpalooza crowd on their turf.

It’s probably not surprising that I ran into the Working Theatre Collective’s Ashley Hollingshead and Noelle Eaton at Laurelthirst Pub, watching a supergroup of local female musicians re-create an Anne Murray record. It was just the sort of act that matches WTC’s ouevre (INDEPENDENT WOMEN, the Tomorrow! trilogy), and featured Action/Adventure theater mainstay Cristina Cano as well as the creators of the musical Aika &Rose.


Ostensibly off the clock, Hollingshead agreed to talk about WTC’s upcoming Bike Play, happening June 19-22. Bike Play 6: Bike Play’s Big Adventure is part of Pedalpalooza (Yes, the same Pedalpalooza that champions the World Naked Bike Ride) and the only show, as far as we know, that’s staged in area parks and requires its audience to ride their bikes between scenes that are sequentially staged in public places along a customized route.

But here’s Hollingshead’s take, as reconstructed from a scribbled-on grocery receipt:

“A lot of people lump Working Theater Collective right in with Action/Adventure, and that’s fine,” says Hollingshead. Even so, the theatrical entity holds its own distinct production history.

Each year, Bike Play has a general theme. Last year was superheroish (akin to Action/Adventure’s Sidekicks), and an earlier season was Noir. This year’s installment will riff loosely on the plot of Peewee’s Big Adventure, the Paul Reubens/Wayne WhiteTK classic 80’s film that depicts one long caper after a stolen bike. And the show’s actors should have no trouble “finding their motivation”: “At least half of our cast has had their bikes stolen,” says Hollingshead.

WTC cites legendary, longsuffering bike rider Peewee Herman (played by Paul Reubens) as the inspiration for their newest play.

WTC credits legendary, longsuffering bike rider Peewee Herman (Paul Reubens) as the inspiration for its newest play.

Now well-known within its niche, Bike Play gets a lot of repeat attenders. Hollingshead knows this because she fields many early schedule requests from out-of-town visitors who want to plan it into their trips to Portland. About 85%, she estimates, are avid bikers but rare-to-never theatergoers. “This is the only play a lot of this audience sees all year,” she notes.

Always “a short, fast rehearsal process,” bike play pulls its act together in about two weeks, stretching a simple storyline across an intricate (but safe) route. This year’s prep included watching the Peewee movie that inspired them. Though unsure of the particulars at the time of the interview, Hollingshead reveals that this year’s production will include singing and dancing, acrobatics, chase sequences, and maybe even puppetry (Last year, in a Labyrinth-like sequence, several actors animated a giant face made out of bike parts, with an expressive inner-tube mouth lip-synching dialogue.).

As for the actual path: “We make an effort to switch up the route each year, to use location in a novel way with the story, and to include places you normally wouldn’t go.” For an audience that by-and-large knows no bounds but draws the line at conventional indoor theater, that’s no small feat.

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