Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Site for Sore Eyes?

Over the past few months Boston Theatre has seen a little surge in site-specific productions and found spaces.

Actors Shakespeare Project utilized the Garage space in Harvard Square for their Titus Andronicus. Marsha Norman's Third and Oak: The Laundromat was staged, appropriately, in a Brighton laundry by Brook M. Haney Productions. And, most recentley, Spontaneous Theatre Project produced The Shape of Things at the Bernard Toale Gallery in Boston's South End.

Could this be reflecting a trend, not just here, but in theatre in general? Whereas Boston is finding spaces to fit plays, other cities are taking sites and creating works to fit in them.

In Minneapolis a theatre company stages a meditation on life and death called Cityceased:


Audiences for this play with music will begin at Lakewood's reflecting pool, nestled between the plum-domed, Byzantine-style chapel and the starker mausoleum. From there, they'll walk a mile or so, circling the cemetery's small lake, encountering - among others - bereft widows, reunited lovers and an afterlife humane society where pets have a foster home until their owners join them.

In this week's Stranger Brendan Kiley previews Implied Violence's upcoming show:

The show they're planning for Smoke Farm sounds messy. According to the hand-drawn maps, there's a big, derelict barn with a stage, where most of the audience will watch the Inside Play. It includes lines like this: "I have a headache and a suicidal thought. Hang, hang, hanging in my head head head head. I have heartache, gray hairs, and wrinkles. I'm a young old lady!"Behind the barn is a huge field where the Outside Play will happen—platforms for musicians and performers, a string-and-tin-can telephone, big patches of sod, 40 balloons full of helium and globule lights, microphones and loudspeakers, blood, piñatas, and performers running around, stoking the pandemonium. The catch is this: The audience members inside the barn aren't allowed to turn around and look at all the spectacle going on behind them (save for eight of them, who will be assigned to sit in seats in the field). If people want to watch the action in the field, they have to raise their hands and get carried out there on the backs of cast members.

Although, in the Gaurdian, Michael Billington talks to a skeptical Iain Mackintosh:


Mackintosh only demurs when I suggest that there is a whole new generation who wouldn't set foot inside an existing building but who will rush to a "found" space such as Shunt Vaults under London Bridge or the derelict building in Wapping recently discovered by Punchdrunk for their Faust. Without denying the sensory thrill of
the "found" space, Mackintosh observes that the young people you see packing into the Soho in Dean Street, the Young Vic or the Theatre Royal, Stratford East don't seem to have any built-in edifice complex.



On a larger scale, as far as non-traditional spaces go, there is also De LaGuarda's new theatre piece which is getting prepared in New York:

At considerable expense two of the show’s main set pieces were installed in the theater: a 15-foot-long treadmill platform and a 50-foot long pool, hung from the ceiling, where it can be raised and lowered to just above spectators’ heads. Designers spent a year creating the set, which will take nearly two months to install, said Bradley Thompson, the show’s United States technical supervisor. An assistant on a laptop controlled the treadmill, which moved at more than a quarter-mile a minute.

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