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January 23, 2024

Theatre Contra's live readings of cult movies returns in 2024, starting with 'Snakes on a Plane'

In its history, the Philly theater troupe has performed 20 movies, including classics like 'The Princess Bride' and 'Die Hard'

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Theatre Contra Tattooed Mom live movie reading Theatre Contra/Facebook

Theatre Contra has performed live readings of popular classic films at venues including Tattooed Mom and The Monkey Club. Pictured above is Theatre Contra's live reading of 'The Mummy' at Tattooed Mom in March 2023.

Philly-based theater troupe Theatre Contra is continuing its semi-regular live readings of classic and cult movies this year. On Saturday, Jan. 27,  the company is performing its rendition of the 2006 cult film "Snakes on a Plane."

Meyers Brewing Co. in Fishtown is hosting the event at  7 p.m. It had been originally scheduled for last week but was postponed due to the snow storm.

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Theatre Contra's take on the Samuel L. Jackson-starring vehicle is among the performances on the company's calendar for 2024, which also includes live readings for "Batman & Robin" (Feb. 18) and M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" (April 22), both at Tattooed Mom, 530 South St. Theatre Contra will also be at ComedySportz in Rittenhouse on Fridays in April, doing "Dare Night" readings of "National Treasure" that incorporate higher production values and dares from the audience.

There isn't much of a set formula for how the troupe picks its movies, but it gravitates to "just-left-of-cult" films that are nostalgic or simply absurd on paper. Previous movies receiving the Theatre Contra treatment include "Twilight," "Bee Movie," "She's the Man" and "The Fast and the Furious."

"To be honest, a lot of it is vibes," said Bryant Edwards, a founding member and the producing artistic director for Theatre Contra. "We do have a firm idea of what works, though — we’ve found 80s, 900s and early 2000s movies are hits. Anything Nic Cage or Keanu Reeves."

Theatre Contra was formed in 2018 by a group that produced and performed a show at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival called The Vs. Series. "At the time, we were still figuring out who we were," Edwards said. After producing "The Lesson" by Eugene Ionesco, the troupe took to live readings as a form of fundraising.

The live readings started with "Die Hard" during the 2018 Christmas season, and following a hit with a reading of "National Treasure" in February 2019, Theatre Contra continued with these events. "That’s when we knew we had something special that resonated with people — whether they are theatre fans or not."

In between these readings, Theatre Contra produces work that centers on "the visceral conflict and conviction within us all." The successful live readings helped to fund a collaboration with A Novel Idea on Passyunk called "Dream-Rushes," a show examining the real-life story that led to the creation of "Alice in Wonderland."

The theater troupe recently updated its mission statement to be "Low Stakes, High Fun," a phrase that members would often quote during rehearsals. "We are doing theatre — it’s supposed to be fun," Edwards said. "That’s not to say we won’t tackle hard topics, but the best stories are always a mix of emotions and our goal is for the audience to leave feeling a sense of joy that they attended." 

Along with the aforementioned future live readings, Theatre Contra is in the early stages of another collaboration with A Novel Idea on Passyunk, an "immersive piece" slated for November of this year.

Snakes on a Plane – A Live Reading

Saturday, Jan. 27
7 p.m.-9 p.m. | $10 suggested donation | $15 VIP tickets
Meyers Brewing Co.
436 East Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19125