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"Because anything that can happen, can happen in a bar."

Thus goes the mantra of Sticky, who is neither man nor woman nor adhesive brand name.

Sticky, rather, is the designation for the latest wrinkle on the ever-expanding Twin Cities theater scene.

Specifically: a new monthly celebration of "short attention span theater" that began 15 years ago at a place called Bar Noir in Philadelphia, transitioned to New York City in 2003 and, now, a dozen more years later, has taken root in Uptown Normal.

Precisely: Firehouse Pizza & Pub at 107 E. Beaufort St., where the third Sticky session will glue the audience to its seats at the popular nightspot at 8 p.m. Friday.

Well, after they go to the bar to order their brew and a little slice or two o' heaven, with pepperoni.

"Well, you know all the great things in life are sticky," suggests Sticky co-founder J. Michael Grey, name-checking cotton candy and several other items that we'll leave to the reader's imagination.

Certainly cheesy 'za, which competes with, but doesn't upstage, Sticky.

The approximately 90-minute sessions open at 8 p.m. with a hand-picked musical guest to suit the fringe nature of the endeavor (this week, gender-unspecific Teeadora, who, notes Grey, performs as a he or a she, "depending on his or her mood that night").

After 10 minutes of music comes the first set of 10-minute plays, followed by another musical interlude, followed by the second set of short plays, then finished off by one last round of tunes.

Currently, there is a roster of 16 to 20 actors involved, many of whom hail from the established likes of Heartland Theatre, New Route Theatre, Community Players and the ISU/IWU community. 

Some are, enthuses Grey, "absolute virgins to the experience."

In fact, "at the first show, we had a couple actors who had never seen a play, let alone acted in one ... and we're counting on the fact that every night a good majority of the audience have not been to a play since they saw Donny in 'Joseph'."

(Grey insists that a common response from casual theatergoers involves the fact that the last thing they saw in a theater, for reasons that baffle science, was the Donny Osmond rendering of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.") 

On an average night, there are five to six original short plays performed, each currently keyed to the bar setting, says Grey, a Twin Cities native who moved back to the area three years ago.

That environmental backdrop is likely to evolve as time goes on ... but for the time being having the characters play out their drama and/or comedy at a bar is working just fine.

Connie Chojnaki, who with Grey helped transplant Sticky from New York to Normal, describes the overall experience as "an environmental theater approach derived from the eternal quandary of whether to drink or go to the theater."

Solution: "Sticky loudly proclaims, why not do both?"

Though Heartland Theatre's annual 10-Minute Play Festival has been celebrating short attention spans for years now, this marks a whole new avenue for expression.

Even so, "I don't think it's that unusual of a setting," says Grey. "I mean, what better place is there to tell stories?"

Sticky debuted in November without great fanfare, and attracted a pub-packing audience of around 160, with the demographic straddling the built-in college crowd on one end and older theater patrons on the other.

Despite the general edginess of the material ("we do use the f-bomb," says Grey of the material intended for the mature in heart), there were only a couple negative comments from patrons who felt a line had been crossed. 

"If we have a goal," says Chojnacki, "it's to introduce people to theater who haven't had the experience, and encourage them to see a show at one of our town's theaters.

"Some people would never jump at the chance to go to a theater ... but a bar! They're in. And this is happening, and we're grateful."

(Note: Following this Friday's January session of Sticky, the series will take a one-month hiatus in February, resuming in March on a Friday TBA. Keep your eyes, well, glued to GO!'s Theater calendar for updates. Direct any inquiries to normalsticky@gmail.com.)

Craft is Pantagraph arts and entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-820-3259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com.

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