Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Non-Traditional Spaces and Approaches - Part Two

Where you come from and where you want to be greatly influences you're opinion of non-traditional spaces and approaches.

Where you do your show affects your production how? When you did that show in...

a bar,
in the park,
at the gallery,
in the back of a car,
at the bus stop,
in your living room,
beneath the bean,
from the balcony
in the lobby
in the goldfish bowl...

There was no way you were able to process in a manner that you were taught while at college. What are the big surprises that almost or maybe even did kick you in the butt?

How did the non-traditional venue affect things like

audience's comfort
attention span
actors enthusiasm
difficulties in promotion
ensemble anxiety

When you did your non-traditional production, did it feel...

just right
sort of like 'slumming it'
nothing special
a break thru for the form the form of theatre
sort of like a dirty picnic
walking through a sculpture garden?

1 comment:

Nick Keenan said...

Some things we learned from Man Who Was Thursday - a semi-promenade show in several rooms of a park district building.

- Seating is tricky. There's already some fallout with promenade. Some folks (myself included) LOVE having action be beyond the field of vision. This doesn't bother me - it makes me listen harder. That said, we anticipated that most of our audience would want complete sight lines for a majority of the show, so we ended up using a very flexible seating arrangement that could be manipulated in a minimum amount of time: Benches. This, of course, was hard on the back.
In a non-traditional venue, I think that means that nearly 50% of set design is actually audience design.

Actually, I was able to do a lot of this work in college. Many of our student-produced shows were on a forgotten staircase or by the campus pond. This is not actually that unusual in my experience, and I'd wager that many artists of our generation did grow up with this kind of found-space mentality to serve the work.

Found-space work requires I think simply that you really put yourself in the head of a confused audience member, and again as we found with Thursday, the solution often is scenario-building with an ensemble to build a toolkit of actions to reconnect (or disassociate, if that's your goal) the audience with the story or environment. It's very possible to increase audience attention span if the space and the story actually fit together. For example, if you stage the play at a bus stop, having a drug deal about to go down with an unknown bus rider uses the rhythm of approaching buses to create and ratchet tension into the play at every step.