Most theatre is pretty traditional. You enter the theatre, sit facing the stage, actors come out and perform as if you’re not there—because of the “fourth wall.” But sometimes theatre artists create something a little different, a little experimental in its form—and we’re happy to say that there are three shows in the upcoming Theatre Wire Season that definitely break down the fourth wall, and even invite you in.
Theatre Wire: Tell me a bit about how your show deviates from traditional theatre?
Three Stories Up: There are no lights. At all. Complete darkness so that’s pretty deviant. It’s also site-specific in that the story takes place around the neighbourhood. We’re also keeping the cast and the exact location a secret so that the audience has no visual expectations which I think is mysterious for the audience.
The City and The City: The City and The City is an interactive, audio-driven performance. While the central characters are played by a core of professional actors, all the smaller roles, as well as group scenes etc, are performed by the audience, who receive cues and instructions through an individualized audio feed delivered live via ear bud. Audience members have the opportunity to indicate the level of participation they’re comfortable with, and are cast accordingly. To the best of our knowledge, this system has never been used before: this is a unique show, and a ground breaking use of technology.
Butt Kapinski: There is no audience, there is no fourth wall, there’s barely a story, audience members play characters, the performer wears the only light—really, there’s deviation on all fronts.
Theatre Wire: Why did you decide to do a show that was non-traditional?
Three Stories Up: We were initially going to stage it traditionally but then realized it wouldn’t need much of a set because so much is described by the performers; we thought, “what if we staged it in complete darkness?” What a neat environment to play with soundscape and sensory experiences for the audience!
The City and The City: City is adapted from a book by British author China Mieville, which revolves around ideas of perception and editing of reality in the urban environment. When we began the work of adapting it for the stage, we felt really deeply that these ideas needed to be experienced by the audience, as opposed to demonstrated by the actors or explained in a soliloquy. It makes them so much more powerful.
Butt Kapinski: Doing traditional theatre now is like doing ham radio: it’s adorable, it’s got a great legacy, and some people still get into it, but that doesn’t mean it actually makes sense in the time and place we’re in now.
Theatre Wire: What’s your favourite part about creating or producing non-traditional theatre?
Three Stories Up: I think non-traditional theatre attracts non-traditional audiences or new theatre audiences, which is what inspires me about it. Theatre is one of those fringe art forms and I love it when we can subvert the audience’s expectations of what “the theatah” is. And hopefully create an engaging and thought provoking evening too.
The City and The City: The excitement, the thrill of not knowing what it is going to be or if it is going to work. The problem solving—it’s like a vast, complex puzzle that no one has ever undertaken before.
Butt Kapinski: People still want to go out and experience a live show, so it’s our job—and a great job it is—to suss out what kind of live shows people still want to experience, and to provide our audiences with the most thrilling, spontaneous, sense-satisfying experience they can have. Otherwise what the eff are we doing?
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