Well, the good news is that there are signs of a new springtime for the theatre. We just completed a three-week summer camp at HeadStart International School that had a record attendance, showing how much everyone longs to get back to some form of normality. While wearing masks and maintaining social distance, we and the children involved managed to prepare two plays/performances a week, one for kids from 5 to 8 and one for those 9 and up, filming the performances every Friday. It was hard work, but we, both teachers and students, had a lot of fun.
In another development, in early July, I was contacted out of the blue by Pepper’s Bar in Laguna and asked if we would perform an interactive murder mystery in late August. They found Theatrix in a Google search when they typed in murder mystery Phuket! So, we are now preparing that and are excited about future interactive events at Pepper’s and other venues as things hopefully open up more and more.
Interactive theatre is becoming increasingly popular around the world as people look for something more active than conventional theatre, and we are ready to supply that here in Phuket. Today, let’s take a look at the history and styles of interactive theatre. It’s a big subject so this may take a couple of articles to cover. Bear with me.
What makes theatre interactive? Traditional theatre creates what is called a fourth wall between the actors and the audience that separates them both physically and verbally. However, while most playwrights adhered to the fourth wall principle, playwrights for hundreds of years have delighted to break the fourth wall. Shakespeare did it with narrator characters in plays like Henry V and Romeo and Juliet. Thornton Wilder did it in his twentieth century classics, Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth. And it has been done in even more extreme ways where the audience can influence the direction of a play by their actions or words as in Peter Pan, The Seesaw Tree, and other plays.
There are plays where the wall is totally broken and the audience becomes part of the play, taking roles either assigned or chosen. They may become or hold props, make sound effects, offer suggestions as in improv comedy, and more. There are so many ways interactive theatre can happen, and we will talk about some specifics in the next article, but suffice it to say, the interactivity can be used to increase the comedy and fun, or it can be used to explore serious issues and get community input on how best to solve problems, and interactive theatre is fast becoming one of the most popular and vital forms of theatre today.
Our improv team, Outta the Box, has performed comic improv for delighted audiences several times. We ask for the audience’s suggestions and/or participation in scenes and sketches made up on the spot by improvisational actors. If you’d ever like a hilarious evening of improv comedy, feel free to contact us and it can be arranged.
Theatrix has also performed interactive murder mysteries in which the audience watches scenes played depicting the events leading up to and following a murder. The spectators have printed evidence and the scenes they watch to try to unravel the mystery. Additionally, between scenes the actors mix and mingle with the audience in character and the audience can ask them questions. The actors/characters may not lie unless they are asked point blank if they committed the murder. When all the evidence has been laid out, the audience votes on who committed the murder, and prizes are given out to the winner(s).
At Pepper’s August 20th, we are doing something slightly different. Our former murder mysteries were rehearsed and prepared before the evening, but this time those who choose to act roles in the mystery, a cowboy mystery performed around a poker tournament set in a saloon in the Wild West, are only given a character bio and costume and character suggestions before the evening. Theatrix actors will play a number of roles, and the remainder of the roles will be filled by members of Pepper’s clientele. On the evening they are handed assignments they must accomplish before the murder; after the crime, they receive another paper for what they must do to help find out whodunnit.
When the evening starts, none of the actors knows who the victim or the perpetrator will be, which makes for a lot of fun and adds reality and tangible suspense to the situation. This will be the first time we have done this kind of interactive theatre and we are really looking forward to it. If you would like to join us, please contact Pepper’s in Laguna. You can be a spectator or perhaps even an actor. Join us for a night of fun on August 20th!
Also, if you or your kids are interested in acting classes on many different subjects either in-person or online, please contact me. We have something for everyone, including a course designed to help non-native English speakers improve their English through drama games, activities, and projects.
Bye for now. Talk to you again soon with more of the history of interactive theatre.
Joel Adams is building a vibrant theatre community right here in Phuket. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 093 6490066. Facebook: Theatrix Group