Lessons from the House:
Last summer’s “House” experience ended with the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine with an audience of about sixteen people. We had become a new little community and we all were chomping at the bit to chat about the performance. We recorded it, not just because were nerds (we are), but as part of our on going dramaturgy.
This is how we learn about our work; experimenting with ideas, taking feedback from our
community, and then making conclusions about how our experiments succeeded, failed, or surprised us all.
A few months ago Erika and I came back to this recording and took some notes. We would like to share some of the lessons we took from the lab. Be warned some of this might not make since to you or may even seem ridiculously simple, but it’s all part of our effort to let you into our process. In no order of importance or chronology and with a few questions of our own:
· Place is what people bring to it.
· The hand holding between the actor group leader and the audience built community.
· Hand holding built intimacy with the leader’s story.
· “They felt like a bead on a string. They were being led to something beyond their control.”
· “It is our last boundary without a stage. You have an actor, just being an actor and all of a sudden they aren't an actor any more, but you’re in a play still. And you see something, a play still going inside the house, It’s disconcerting.”
· The audience were exited to have their expectations change, but also felt far more uncomfortable than any other theater event they have experienced. No horror just apprehension.
· We like stirring a little apprehension, but how do we break the expectation of a sudden surprise?
· Feral children excite Erika.
· “You can’t wait to get back to the familiar.”
· Some got the impression that the leaders were trying to show what the house meant to them.
· David, one of the leaders, wanted his group to feel safe. The audience felt this earnestness. This is something that should be fostered, but in the context of character.
· People either stamped their personal history on the story between the two leaders or took them in a general way, seeing them as not directly connected. ”Running parallel life courses in different times.”
· People liked the vulnerability of the unknown. And the disorientation was important.
· How do we change the way they see a very familiar location? How do we disorient them this way?
· We should bring back the directional/birds eye view language by connecting with the map and the use of language.
· There was a connection between Kasper and the Runner. One learns symbols the other losses
symbols. Or more specifically, Kasper gains the context of words and the Runner looses her points of reference.
· We should always end shows with the breaking of bread, drinking of wine and sharing ideas as a community.
· Connecting video to live action has big impact.
· The term “residue” is important. It’s the idea when you leave place the experience still somehow remains there.
· When surrounded completely by the "stage" your slate of expectations is made clean.
· Fletch, don’t offer water to people. You ruin everything.
· Strong changes in lighting can take you out of the event or bring you back in.
· Place is an emotional or subjective connection to a physical experience in a location.
· Exodus: We need to find our community! In emergency situations we seek out anyone and we love everyone.
· We need a through line! But let the story be decided by the audience. Lets orient our selves specifically, but not definitively.
· Depend on gestalt and the audience’s active need to put things together for completing the through line.
· Being aware of other places (ie sanctuary/lawn mower during the runner) shades the experience of the place you are in.
· When sharing space with the action of the story the audience naturally retracts to give space and separation.