May 31st, 2011
Recently I found myself in NYC for a few days and enjoyed delicious food, beautiful architecture, and the awesome Museum of Sex. I did not get a chance to see any shows, mostly because the one I wanted to see, Sleep No More, was sold out like whoa. It’s a crazy little take on Macbeth that takes place in an abandoned hotel. Audience members have to wear creepy masks and wonder in silence through the hotel for 2.5 hours, following a character of their choice and being able to get as close to the action as they like without touching anyone. It’s supposed to be amazing and terrifying! I really wish I could have gotten a ticket.
Alas, I did not, but it got me thinking. I can’t remember the last time I saw a theater production in a found or site-specific space. I can’t even think of the last time I heard about a show like this in Chicago, except for maybe the occasional festival on Navy Pier with outdoor performers. I might just not be looking in the right places, but I don’t think it happens that much in our lovely city, does it? It got me to wondering why.
I think many of the reasons are clear. It’s probably difficult to find a space that’s large enough or abandoned enough, and also up to code so you can shove a bunch of strangers in it safely. It might be a hard sell, unless you have a very specific angle and purpose for being in that found space. Maybe it’s hard to get the city to approve such ventures? Or is it just too damn cold most of the time to travel outside a weather proof theater with heat? In the city of street festivals, I rarely even see a street performer. Is it a matter of location, or do Chicago companies shy away from site specific work?
Where on earth would I want to put on a play, if I were to direct a site specific work? Well, here’s a list of some awesome “found” places to do a show, if money or resources ever allowed!
Graceland – home of Elvis, full of shag carpeting and tombs (Elvis is buried next to his pool!). Between the Jungle Room and his airplane, there’s lots of fun and crazy places to stage a play! Clearly it would need to be a comedy.
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Located next to the West Wing and deemed by Mark Twain as “the ugliest building in America”, I’ve had the great pleasure to walk through it’s halls and see for myself just how hideous this building really is. Housing most of the White House staff, the building boasts a checkered black and white floor with pink marble walls. There are columns and chandaliers everywhere, but the place hasn’t had a good cleaning in years. The rooms are long, oddly shaped, and perfect to walk through with that eerie clicking of your high heel shoes. Perfect for a creepy play or political satire.
Canadian Embassy, DC - Another DC location, the Canadian Embassy is probably pretty boring on the inside. But on the outside, it has this cool dome that if you walk through it, you echo like crazy. That is, until you get to the very center, where everything becomes calm and silent again. Who wouldn’t want to do some wacky performance art piece where you force your audience to walk through the dome only to discover it’s silent center?
Millenium Park Face Fountains
Must take place in the summer, to take advantage of the spouting water mouths! Synetic Theater in DC recently did a production of King Arthur on a stage six inches deep in water. If you can do King Arthur in water, think about how many other places you could do with a little H20 included!
Let me know if you have any crazy places you’d love to do a show in! And don’t even try to say your bedroom. Gross.
Until next time,