Only slightly more expensive than popping bubble wrap

Nearly 100 million Americans will celebrate the New Year by making resolutions, a well-intentioned exercise in ridding oneself of pesky habits that inevitably reappear around mid-February.

But according to studies (resolution #1: Stick to the facts, at least in print) easily obtainable online (resolution #2: Spend less time online), goal setters have a better chance of success if they share their resolutions with helpful friends (resolution #3: Cultivate helpful friends).

  Fortunately for Ashevilleans, the Redundant Theatre Company Theatre wants to be your resolution buddy. The five-person troupe is primed to facilitate all manner of resolutions. Want to see more theater? TRTCT’s first show of the year opens this week. Looking to take control of your finances? TRTCT asks you to choose your ticket price. Would you like to lose weight, relax more, change jobs, learn a new language or spend more time with your family? Pay attention: Each of the ten one-act plays included in TRTCT’s new production, Self. Help., is correlated with one step of a ten-step program for change.

The steps, plucked from a book for social-anxiety sufferers, include planning, confronting and changing. The plays, in keeping with the troupe’s experimental bent, feature cross-dressing and a dialogue between two animals.

“The nice thing about doing ten-minute plays is if you don’t like one, you can just wait for another one,” says TRTCT co-founder Willie Repoley.

The only restriction in selecting plays was the size of the company, he adds. With only five actors available for casting, most of the plays “star” just two people.

But Repoley vows that none of the skits – which additional narration binds together as a self-help seminar – will be unbearably outré.

“It’s mostly fairly standard modern theater,” he says. “There’s comedy, there’s drama. There’s no John Cage music.”

Many of the plays are troupe-member favorites that couldn’t be squeezed into earlier productions. (All TRTCT shows consist of plays about one theme, and personal growth proved especially malleable.)

The self-help motif was generated during a late-night, all-troupe brainstorm session that co-founder Rain Newcomb laughingly complains was prolonged by the male members’ penchant for philosophizing.

“The three boys talk all the time about theater, and it gets really abstract,” she says. “[The female members] know when to stop. They just like to talk.”

But according to Repoley, one of TRTCT’s goals – heck, it’s even resolution-worthy – is to stimulate such talking, even if it means mingling with show-goers before curtain. The troupe treats audience members as participants – not in a Tony and Tina’s Wedding way, but in a style sanctioned by modern-parenting manuals.

“We’re all creating the experience together,” says Repoley.

[Contributing writer Hanna Miller lives in Asheville.]

The Redundant Theatre Company Theatre presents Self. Help. at North Carolina Stage Company (33 Haywood St.) Thursday, Jan. 5 through Saturday, Jan. 14 with performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. In keeping with the self-help theme, audience members will be empowered to choose to pay $10, $12 or $15 for a performance. With a ticket stub from a previous show in the series, admission is a non-negotiable $8. TRTCT is playing up the element of chance by presenting Self. Help. over the course of two nights. Risk (playing Jan. 5, 7 and 13) and Return (playing Jan. 6, 12 and 14) each feature five of ten plays, so viewers are encouraged to attend the theater twice to collect the complete set; the alternating schedule allows them to return either the following night or the same day the following week. (However, each portion is produced to stand alone.) Call 350-9090 or see for details.



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