01 02 03 RMR's writing space: Interactive theatre 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Interactive theatre

Before I start discussing this I think I'll share a personal story of the first time I myself discovered this art form. I was 16 going on 17 and one summer I was invited to Julie Tepperman's "Gladstone Variations". I didn't really know what I was in for, had never heard of neither the playwright or the project and I had never set foot in the Gladstone Hotel. Before then my expectations about theatre were specific and concrete. But, as I stood in that lineup and was given a ticket that looked like one of those VIP or staff passes that you sometimes see people wearing around their neck that was all about to change. The guide, who was dressed in retro clothing took the role of your average tour guide and depending on your ticket you were divided into a specific group. The tour guide lead us into spaces around the Gladstone hotel and made sure we followed the actors into the spaces so that we could literally follow them through the progression of their story. I eagerly followed the guide through the Gladstone but felt a little uneasy when the performers looked me in the eye or tried to include me in that moment. This is kind of the point of interactive theatre, to destroy that third wall and still tell a story but turn the audience into a valuable contribution and often people aren't really comfortable with that because it is so easy to feel self-conscious, shocked, and like you have to suddenly perform and play a role. I walked out changed and altered and fascinated by a method of storytelling that had been previously so exotic and unknown to me and was inspired to write a play that incorporated that method of storytelling that was my first play in which was actually performed in front of a legit audience. I started with a simple idea and then found a way to break the 4th wall, get the audience to explore the space as the story progresses and although there were occasional screw ups and dilemmas it turned out quite successful in the end.
Interactive theatre is all about being a willing and eager participant and not just going to the show for the sake of well...seeing a show and suddenly it is a 3D, realistic experience where you have to just abandon all perceptions and just be willing to...well explore. The audience, the space where this is taking place, and the actors all become equal participants and the audience is no longer hovering in the background simply watching the story. It's an interesting art form in a way that tries to get everyone to just be creative, open, and willing to explore. I saw something similar myself through called "The White Box Project" which was this to an even larger extreme where audience participation and creativity was a key focus and although the actors remained silent there were many silent mini stories going on through their individual characters and the ways in which the tried to get the audience and their subtle character portrait clues. Successful interactive theatre turns the audience into willing participants and makes them willing to explore just because they want to find out about more about what's around them and makes them willing to accept that the third wall is destroyed. This piece did that and so do Julie Tepperman and Aaron Willis who experiment with this type of theatre in interesting ways. Their theatre company is called Convergence Theatre and they work on a lot of these types of projects. And yes, I did just throw in some promotion, it is necessary...
35 36 37 38