Thursday, July 5, 2007

Expect the Unexpected

I very briefly touched on some upcoming projects in my last post, and while the pile on my desk here at work is no less massive, I'm going to elaborate anyway.

About this time last year, I started to take an interest in the very building blocks of the theatrical experience and how assumptive both the audience and the artists had become about what was and was not and what could or could not happen in theatre. I started keeping a list of aspects and forms and structures within theatre that were taken as fact and ways they could be subverted, and came up with quite a few. All of this was done with the goal of capturing that moment of utter vulnerability and surprise when an audience encounters an action onstage (or off) that they in no way saw coming. But not a plot twist or a character choice or any other event within the work that they weren't expecting; rather, a moment in which the audience is momentarily thrust into self-awareness as they come to terms with the new rules of the evening. This can take the form of certain types of audience interaction, but more often it is an attack on a (or multiple) basic tenet of the form. Anti-classicism, perhaps: in which the only boundaries are the boundaries we apply to ourselves and the boundaries for each show widely differ. The greater goal, then, is to marry the experience of being enrapt by a well-produced play to the avoidance of complacency by refusing to feed all of the basic expectations of audience.

And so, after a year of turning this idea around in my head, I decided that if it was going to get done, I was going to have to do it. This is the point where I thrust it all up on my blog. Then, in some exciting conversation yesterday, a couple of friends of my expressed possible interest in their company producing the work if I was willing to take up much of the manpower (which I would have been doing anyway had I self-produced). Nothing is, of course, certain at this time, hence part of my vagueness, but if all goes smoothly, we could be looking at the first production maybe as soon as early 2008.

I say first production (and am also maintaining part of the vagueness) because of how I envision the project. While all of the pieces I am germinating on the page must be able to stand and have A Point on their own, the whole in my mind is greater than the sum of its parts. The purpose of this experiment is to create a dialogue about the infinite possibilities of the stage and how to use those possibilities to force an audience to come prepared for anything -- an audience who is forced to invest themselves into the evening much like the performers, rather than an audience who is catered to by the performers. With this project (which it now occurs to me I really need to put a name to...), the goal is to remove audience expectation and allow them to experience things for the 'first time', just as we strive to perform them for the 'first time'.

Because of the nature of the beast, these will most likely be one weekend, three show events. I first balked at this and tried to figure a way to extend them while maintaining some sense of surprise, but it hit me that theatre is a temporal art anyway and that three to five week runs are just another basic expectation the form is molded into thanks to outside factors (performance spaces, a procrastinating audience, worries about Jeff eligibility), and that a long run, while always a possibility for certain shows in the project less reliant on an audience coming in blind, is not a requirement of good theatre -- just another block to tumble and stand astride.

It all sounds grandiose and I realize that at this point much doubt will be raised as to how long this sort of thing can last before it is completely run into the ground, but the blogosphere is consistent in releasing giant sighs of "get off your ass and do it" to persistent bitchers. This persistent bitcher is getting off his ass and doing it. I'll continue to post information here as it is solidified (not to mention marketing, which will be key, and yet another aspect to subvert at times), and hopefully the blogosphere that was so eager to get new idea-makers on the scene will support some new ideas.

I'm pretty faithful in this bunch...


1 comment:

GreyZelda said...

Awesome! Good luck and please know that you're more than welcome to bounce ideas and plans off of me and my bunch of ragtag collaborators, as well, as I think they're more of us out there thinking similar thoughts than we give ourselves credit for and it makes me happy knowing that people are hauling off and making things happen.