We are often distanced from a theater piece by the curtain, the proscenium, the conventions of the fourth wall. These theatrical traditions are all well and good, and extremely pleasing.There is also another path that theatrical productions can take.
There were always immersive entertainments. In the 1960s, stage craft incorporated randomness as it never had before.Improvising and enveloping the audience in the event that was theater was truly what was Happening!
Some performances can use both the protocol of the curtain, and the range of the theatrical space. The Debate Society’s The Light Years is an excellent example of a show that uses both distance and intimacy; the play opens behind a plush red curtain and winds up using every nook and cranny of the Playwrights Horizons auditorium to engage. Characters walk through or speak from above the stage. This is just one example of a production that immerses.
For instance, opening soon, theater activist and provocateur Tom Block’s new play Sub-Basement is having its world premiere at Athena Theatre Company, beginning March 24th through April 15th. Block’s absurdist theater-works often feature his art as part of the set. In this production, the artwork is in the lobby.
Roundabout’s production of the wonderful The Mystery of Edwin Drood had cast members mingling, in character (of course) with the audience before the show, and wandering through the aisles. Some patrons, in the front rows at Studio 54, were addressed by The Princess (Chita Rivera) or The Chairman (Jim Norton.) The capper, it was the audience that voted on who killed Edwin Drood.
It’s not for everyone, but Target Margin Theater invites 70 theater lovers (at a time) to participate in their 6-hour prodution of O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra. The staging under the direction of David Herskovits offers an immersive theatrical experience that takes the audience through the spaces of the Abrons Art Center to witness the entire Eugene O’Neill trilogy. The marathon Mourning… runs from April 26 through May 20th.
At its best, all theater– the novel and inclusive, the long-practiced and habitual, in the round or squared– involves and captivates.
For more information and tickets for on the Playwrights Horizons/TheDebate Society production of The Light Years, please visit the @PHnyc website.
To get tickets for Tom Block’s Sub-Basement, please visit Athena Theatre Company.
Tickets and information about Mourning Becomes Electra, please visit Target Margin Theater.