So my class was invited to a friend's house to watch Glen Berger's UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL in his living room! There are only 6 people in my class so it was actually a perfect setting to experience my first Living Room Play. I've been reading about this unique theatre experience on a couple of other blogs and I've been wanting to do one in my living room, but it was great to watch one first.
First off, the actor, named Mick (mea culpa for not being able to currently remember his last name) was INCREDIBLE. He played a LIBRARIAN who got caught up in a mystery of an overdue book and the mysterious person who checked it out over a 100 years ago. The librarian is from Holland and I was captivated by Mick's performance of him for the entire 80 minutes.
Even though this was a performance for a small group, it was still a PERFORMANCE! The living room had been transformed into a lecture hall/room with a small chalkboard, a coat rack, and a string of lights leading to a projection screen. The music and projections (via slide projector) were creatively used. The only lights were from the living room windows and the above living room light. The space was small and I'm horrible at even guessing distances so I won't even attempt it, but it was small. The props ranged from a Date Stamp, an old cassette tape player, and various books--all to immerse us into the play. And being that close to the stage and actor added to the experience.
And that's what I wanted to blog about--the experience of a play produced in the space of a living room. In this play's context, we, the audience, takes on the role of people being presented a case for finding a person with an overdue book. But as the play progresses, we are then turned into being witnesses for this case to a caring audience to whom this Librarian shares his innermost feelings of loss, regrets, and a hope in believing in God's existence. And there is weight to having that proximity between the actor and the audience. We are deep in it. And I think that being in an audience just big enough to be held in a living room creates that shared and unique experience.
Because of how intimate this setting is, it should be important to find the right material to share with an audience. There was discussion afterwards, with the actor and producer, regarding the use of this space for this play and we wondered how would it play in a larger house/theater. Would it have the same effect? Would the expanse in space create that fourth wall experience in which the Librarian breaks through, especially with Mick's performance as him? An example of this is when I watched NEXT TO NORMAL. I watched the play in a small theater in Sacramento and was completely FLOORED! Literally, I was sitting in a puddle of my tears as I watched it from the front row in this smaller space. Then I watched it at a much larger venue in San Jose and I didn't feel the same. My emotional summation of these two experiences with the same material would have to be contributed to the size and space between the audience and performers (whom were both excellent). It brings to mind a lesson from my Architectonics of a Play (Play Structure) I had last semester where we learned about being able to write into a plays structure. The lesson took a whole semester, so I won't explain the whole thing in this blog, but what I got out of it and it's relevance with this post is if the play's subject is intimate, produce it in an intimate setting. After seeing NEXT TO NORMAL in the intimate setting, I wondered how a show that personal can have the same effect on a Broadway stage? Let's just say, I'm still trying seeking a way that could be possible.
A good exercise would be to sit in a room in your house and write a play/scene based on what is around you. I also want to explore the possibilities of other ways that room can be used. For example if a scene took place in a kitchen, does the scene have to be about cooking something? I mean, that would make sense because that's the kitchen's function, but by doing something outside of that function would be more interesting. And after all, isn't that what we are trying to write?
And witnessing a play in a living room was way beyond interesting!
If you're in the Bay Area, please catch and support Just Theater at their next production:
by Rob Handel
directed by Molly Aaronson-Gelb
West Coast Premiere
in rep with
UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL
by Glen Berger
directed by Mina Morita
July 12 - August 4th
Live Oak Park