Tag Archives: Immersive theatre

This is the happy post

by Chelsea Sutton

Coming Soon: Welcome to Meadowlark Falls – Christmas At Home

There will be a sad post. That will come next. Because it always does.

But this is the happy one.

There are things that make you hopeful. New government leadership. The blessing and land acknowledgement before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Bath & Bodyworks candle sale. You know.

When it comes to theatre, I’m happy that many of us theatre-makers have been trying to innovate, trying to find ways to connect through the digital world, trying to make accessibility something that is baked into our new structures in the new chapter of theatre, whatever that turns out to be. As someone who has always been a cross-genre writer and interested in the expansion of universes, this has been an intellectually interesting time.

This has been one of the worst years in recent history, for sure. All the memes would agree with that.

In many ways, this year has showed us our worst selves. We are racist, selfish, lazy, entitled, self-driven rather than community driven. Right now, my state of mind wants to focus on these things. It really does. But I do have a bad habit of wanting to find the good in the shit. I think it is a survival mechanism. I want there to be meaning where there is none. And often, there is none.

This is the happy post. Just a reminder.

To focus on theatre here, I think most of us felt, in our cores, that the ways things were running were not good or sustainable or even what we wanted. And this moment, if it’s anything at all, is a time to experiment, to not lean on our old habits but try new ways of telling stories.

One way I’ve been starting to explore alternative ways of theatre is through postal plays. There is a national wave of postal plays coming up in the new year. Read all about it here in American Theatre Magazine. I’ll be writing and producing my own play for the wave. Postal plays use either in total or in part the US Postal service to tell their story. The universe of the play becomes a tangible object that arrives at your door. These plays can allow for multimedia inclusion, audience interaction, and immersion, all in the safety of the home.

For the Christmas season, Tin Can Telephone Productions (artist Lori Meeker) has created a postal play made for those of us who binge those holiday Hallmark Christmas movies. Last year, Lori started to create the universe of Meadowlark Falls, the small picturesque New England town where Christmas is exactly how you see it in the movies. It’s a little bit good-hearted spoof too, and working toward updating some of the dated qualities of Hallmark movies in general. We did an in-person workshop last Christmas of one story in the Meadowlark Falls universe, but this year the postal-play brings Christmas to your doorstep in Welcome to Meadowlark Falls – Christmas At Home.

I directed the workshop last year, and for Christmas At Home, I also took on the role of director, but really the creation and organization of all the story beats and elements have been a group effort between Lori, myself, our production manager Alexis Robles and video and audio editor Sara Haddadin. It has truly been a collaboration in many ways that “normal” theatre sometimes isn’t. We’re selling packages now through December 11. There are only a limited amount available, so I hope you check it out.

The Meadowlark Falls Town Council Meeting does not go as planned. Top Left to Right: Roman Dearborn (Amir Levi), Trish Blish (Keiana Richard), Douglass Patel (Anil Margsahayam). Middle Left to Right: Genevieve Snow (Taylor Ashbrook), Andy (Samantha Frontera), Noel (Nicholas McDonald). Bottom Left to Right: Jenny Snow (Carley Herlihy) and Whitney (Carene Rose Mekertichyan).

This is a light-hearted holiday experiment, but I think this is only one of many ways in which theatre can continue to explore interacting with audiences in new ways, even if those old ways are as old as the post office. Sometimes it is not only about creating new tools, but finding new ways to use the old ones.

That’s what makes me hopeful. There are a lot of terrible things to throw out and rebuild. And there are a lot of old things can be repurposed, reframed, and reused.

It sometimes takes extra work. And extra energy. And sometimes you don’t have that in a pandemic. But we have to be fools sometimes. And hopeful.

An Immersive Performance

by Cynthia Wands

Years ago, I was involved in a kind of “immersive theatre” – portraying living suffragette characters from history when I lived in Boston. It was more of a “yelling at people” kind of theatre – any interaction from the audience was viewed as a disruption. I was painfully reminded of those characters during the recent Democratic debates. I did, in fact, turn off the television and did not watch the rest of the last debate when the candidates started screaming at one another.

But it did remind me of this style of performing – a sort of living out loud conversation with the audience. This was a kind of “passionate role playing” that attempted to share the experience and rage of the women’s movement in the early 20th century. Mostly what I remember is that I blew out my vocal chords, (not using the right kind of vocal training here), and that I wore a really uncomfortable corset that squeezed me like a lemon.

Cynthia Wands as Lucy Stone, A Suffragette from Massachusetts

Here is a link with a 22 minute video that shares some of the performers/creators of some of the current immersive style theatre being performed in New York City. The folks that I know that have gone to see “SLEEP NO MORE” have really enjoyed the experience (with some reservations). I think there is a kind of intimacy, not just physical, but energetically, that connects people to this style of performance. It speaks to how our audiences need to feel connected to the world and what they feel.

https://allarts.org/programs/immersive-world/immersive-theater-qy9hup/?fbclid=IwAR2SorOmunyEJoKmguJOpWKPLPBsieS_5HtMK-uU9RtsSTYICpgrAVJcyJo