The Independent EyeHitchhiking off the Map
Hitchhiking off the Map

Six micro-plays about trips & transformations—journeys where you came back different. Up the rim of a volcano, over to the corner grocery, down the basement stairs to Yellowstone, and to the ocean to free a shop-lifted lobster.

Written & performed by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller
Directed by Conrad Bishop, music by Elizabeth Fuller
1m/1w, unit set.

Produced by The Independent Eye, premiering March 3, 2000, at The Noh Space (San Francisco, CA); touring 2000-03 in CA, OR, PA, and WI. 34 performances.

Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller have spent the greater part of the last three decades traveling together. The founders of Milwaukee’s experimental Theatre X and veterans of many other cities and venues, the two—partners in life and art—have relocated to Sebastopol in Northern California. They premiere their latest work in San Francisco, and take as their theme the journey.

But this is no commonplace travelogue; what Bishop and Fuller create in these “micro-plays” (written by both, directed and designed by Bishop, with original music by Fuller) is a sly, smart, and ultimately touching symphony of desire and ambition for a better place. And the two have such sympathetic understanding—of each other and the material—that we quickly become absorbed in these intricate yet somehow familiar yarns.

Drawn upon real stories told to them over the years, the six plays encompass everything from a reminiscence of a teenage beach vacation that culminates in a “lobster liberation,” to a data systems analyst longing for a mystical encounter with the god Pele on Diamond Head, to an alien abduction, to a divorced couple talking over the phone about an abortive trip to Yellowstone the husband made with his mother years ago.

Staged with simple but effective props on the intimate stage at Noh Space, Hitchhiking Off the Map occasionally moves at too leisurely a pace. But some of that can be attributed to the fact that the two performers create characters we care about; we are eager to know what happens next. There aren’t great mimetic shifts between the roles played by Bishop and Fuller—neither takes great pains to change accents—but they both have fine command of their sinuous bodies, and their mellifluous voices pull us into a warp and woof of these tangled tales with cunning grace.

“The journey is the story you tell about it. Be mindful when you choose to tell it. Be careful to whom you tell it. It will change as you hold it in your hands,” warns Fuller at the outset of a piece about an actress on a plane talking to her seat-mate about being stranded in an Omaha mall, courtesy of a blizzard, for two days. The piece seems to be about connection and community (courtesy of art and personal expression) in an unlikely place; but then Bishop’s character—a man who has just returned from burying his mother—provides a twist worthy of O. Henry, if not Flannery O’Connor.

The language throughout the six pieces is carefully chosen—funny, wise, richly detailed, and aphoristic without being portentous. And for all its simplicity, I suspect that there are notes from this piece that will be popping up in my head for some time to come.

—Kerry Reid, Back Stage West

What these wise and mature artists are up to here is an attempt to create a logic out of the ways live and souls collide. The writing never seems to choose pat answers or conclusions. It favors creating rich and resonant music out of ordinary and sometimes odd lives, chance meetings, and memories that return in bits and pieces. It’s a lovely thing to experience an evening of powerful theatre made from performances that do not strain as they bring us their truths.

—Andrew Belser, Head of Theatre, Juniata College