News / Arts & Entertainment

Off-Broadway Plays Draw Audience Into Action

This undated theater image released by The Public Theater shows Ruthie Ann Miles, center, during a performance of
This undated theater image released by The Public Theater shows Ruthie Ann Miles, center, during a performance of "Here Lies Love," in New York.
Theater is designed to engage the heart and the mind, but it's mostly a passive experience. Now, three off-Broadway shows in New York have created interactive environments that engage the audience physically as well.  

Several years ago, when rock star David Byrne considered doing a musical on the life of Imelda Marcos, the wife of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, he made an interesting discovery.

"When I heard some years ago that Imelda Marcos really loved going to discos and that she had a mirror ball in her New York townhouse and  turned the roof of the palace in Manila into a disco, I thought well, here’s a powerful person who lives in that kind of a bubble, but also brings her own soundtrack to it,” Byrne said.

He collaborated with Fatboy Slim, the British musician, on an album a couple years ago. Now it's been turned into a musical at the Public Theater in downtown New York.

Called Here Lies Love, the story is set in a disco. Not only do audience members move around the dance floor to follow the action, they also dance along.

"Sometimes the audiences are amazing extras and, sometimes, they’re taking in a play, but they’re on their feet," said Annie-B Parson, the show's choreographer. "So the sense of who the audience is changes throughout the piece."

The audience is partying with a corrupt figure.

"You’re very aware that you shouldn’t be dancing with Imelda, but it’s too much fun to stop," Parson said. "So, I think it works."

Across Manhattan, another theater has put up its tent - literally. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 takes an episode from Tolstoy’s epic "War and Peace" and sets it in a large tent, made to look like a Russian nightclub, with red velvet curtains, and chandeliers.

This undated theater image released by The Hartman Group shows Blake DeLong, left, with an audience member in This undated theater image released by The Hartman Group shows Blake DeLong, left, with an audience member in "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812," a dinner theater performance in New York.

Dave Malloy, who wrote the pop opera, says he got the idea when he visited Moscow to do research for the show.

"I went to a club called Café Margarita, which was this Russian, you know, bar that was full of people sitting at these crowded tables eating vodka and dumplings and then, in the corner, there was this little pop/classical music trio," Malloy said. "When I saw that room, I was like, 'Oh, this is the setting for this piece.'"  

The audience gets a glass of champagne, a shot of vodka and a full Russian dinner before the show. The action takes place all around and sometimes in the middle of the audience.   

"And they have to be acting as if they’re on film, with sort of that level of realism," explained Rachel Chavkin, who directs the actors, "but the size of the physical gestures has to read across space, to the person on the opposite side of the room."

Intimate gestures in intimate spaces have kept audiences flocking to another show, Sleep No More. It's an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with references to 1930s Hitchcock. It's  probably the most interactive of these interactive theater experiences, said producer Jonathan Hochwald.

In this theater publicity image released by the O+M Co., Luke Murphy is shown in a scene from In this theater publicity image released by the O+M Co., Luke Murphy is shown in a scene from "Sleep No More," performing at The McKittrick Hotel in New York.

"As an audience member, you can get lost in the woods or in a hospital ward or in a train station and really experience something unique," he said.
 
Audiences are handed masks as they get on an elevator that takes them to one of seven floors. They’re instructed to remain quiet and to not remove their masks. 

"It creates the effect of almost being a ghost, where you can float through the halls of this hotel and witness or experience whatever you chose to do," Hochwald said.

Audiences at the shows share one thing.

"That energy of being in the middle of a piece, is a real thing," said Parson. "And so, it’s a very different experience than sitting in your chair, you know, 10, 20, 30 feet away from a play, where you’re squinting your eyes to see if the person’s laughing or crying."

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”