The workshop in Irvine opens tonight.
Date: May 9, 2014
Days Spent on Project: 446
Location: West Hollywood, CA
Person I would have sent it to: Samantha J.
The summer of 2007, when I worked at Peninsula Players in Wisconsin, I was lucky enough to have a costume shop manager overseeing the entire season. Sam was a graduate student, still studying costume design, and was tasked with the big burden of helping me finish the three shows I designed.
I really couldn’t have done it without her. Truth.
She tackled the big things (so many wigs!), and kept up with me as we tried to control a huge musical, a contemporary farce, and a small 4 person show.
We haven’t really talked since that summer, but I do know she’s based in Chicago. Last time I checked in, she had been designing a show or two every once and a while for Pen Players. Glad she’s still at it.
Music I listened to while sewing: This morning, I’ve got Spotify playing randomly chosen songs. That was just Sia, LCD Soundsystem, and now Katy Perry.
Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: So, The California Project opens tonight, and I’m really excited about all of it.
In nine three hour rehearsals, we managed to sculpt an actual immersive experience that runs about 45 minutes long. We’ve figured out a way to stage the piece, and use the outdoor spaces we have access to, so that there are at least 3 different things happening at any one given moment. We’ve figured out a way to start the show with the group of audience members together, have them scatter throughout the space, and then get shepherded back to a central location for a final scene.
With all the content going around the space, three story lines going on, we estimate that we have about an hour and 20 to 30 minutes of content overall.
And we had a small preview audience last night of, perhaps, ten people. Composed mainly of professors in the drama department, and a few friends of cast members, they stuck around for the entire event. At the end, the professors enjoyed it. Some people were confused by what exactly happened, but explained that they wanted to come back for a second time to piece together more of the story.
A few people were excited about the use of the space. Having the actors wander around outside, amongst people who weren’t involved with the show, made the audience question everything that was happening around them. Were the three banana peels in a line on the patio a part of the design? Was that caterer who threw out a bucket of water a character? Audience members commented that they actually saw the buildings around us- buildings they walk around daily for work and school- for the first time. Was there always a door there?
On top of all the things I learned about the text I’ve been writing since last summer, on top of learning about how to approach staging this, on top of learning about what helps in a rehearsal, and so on… We actually kinda succeeded overall. We made a freaking immersive event.
Before I came out here, my creating-partner and I were trying to figure out if this was a project we wanted to continue exploring and fleshing out. I think it’s safe to say that we do. I certainly want to explore creating these experiences further; I do think there’s something exciting to be uncovered and found with this style. Asking audience members to engage with an event- beyond simply “theater in the round”- and to invest personally and physically throughout an event’s actions… the payoff can be really exciting and valuable.
I want to do more of this.
Where to go and what to do?