Hey, do not let me perform! Sometimes interactive theater goes too far.

Hey, do not let me perform! Sometimes interactive theater goes too far.

My time had come. The actor looked at me. I was helpless in the sense that everyone else looked at me in the theater. My only option was to resist – and to make a play of myself – or to respond to and take part in his alluring face. Against my instincts, I took his hand. I did not look at production anymore. I was in one

The show was "The Fever", which ended its run on Sunday at the Woolly Mammoth Theater. It can be said that no work is possible for the theater without an audience, but "The Fever" brings this idea to the extreme. Essentially is the audience: a 70-minute series of exercises in which some 60 ticket holders sitting in a large rectangle on the stage are invited to join five experienced moderators in a collaborative act of gestural imitation: the theatrical equivalent of Tai Chi

It's a gentle evening, not really memorable. The compulsion remains rather mild. However, I wondered if the trend in the theater is becoming more and more important. That is, whether a performance piece of this sort today satisfies a special longing among people – to be noticed – or is just one example of how the theater, in its eternal quest for newness, has found a useful means to embrace its creative work expand options.

Let me just say that while I like watching other theatergoers get involved, as a long-time observer of how the audience behaves, the psychology of these events fascinates me – I hate to be forced to His the show. I am not shy or anti-social. I just do not want to get the feeling that I have to cross the line, play on the actors' field, or be a spoilsport if I do not. It may be that the role I have been playing for more than two decades – a paid analyst of what is happening in a theater – has led me to occupy a seat that most of the others who attend a play do little is occupied. On the other hand, it could emerge from a fundamental belief that I do not want to be in your game!


The audience participates in "The Fever". (Maria Baranova)

If "interactive" is a growth industry, I have to assume that the transformation of spectators into performers – usually improvisational – meets some of the desires of people who work together in ways that go beyond appreciative laughter or tears or applause. Not to say that every participatory theater requires one and the same amount of dedication to production. For years, the Washington troupe dogandponydc has been looking for the best ways to engage audiences in its shows. His most successful project, and one I liked best, was Beertown. The Beertown project was launched in 2011 and hosted a meeting of the city in a fictional, hard-pressed community of the Midwest, where a vote on the elements in question will be placed in or removed from the Beertown Time Capsule exhumed for this tradition every five years.

The participants were invited to participate in the debate and vote, but were not asked on the spot. This crucial distinction is a big difference for me, and I suspect that many other theatergoers, some of whom do not even want to go that far. Over the years, I've gone through too many other nights when I've stood or sat in fear of actors who need a reactive customer to perform their duties. One such show: the highly irritating "Tony & # 39; n-Tina Wedding," in which you interfered in a catastrophic wedding as a guest among the harsh and histrionic revelers (but were able to eat noodles and cakes for your troubles).


Tommer Peterson in "The Fever." (Maria Baranova)

I always find it extremely funny and not particularly entertaining to talk to actors if they have character. the stock markets tend to be stilted and inconspicuous. I often feel that it has suddenly become my job to help them build their performances, when my falling in love with theater had an opposite inclination: I wanted to be immersed in illusions that I was not involved in.

The innumerable permutations of the interactive theater require other exceptions. "Sleep No More," the long-running, dreamlike performance piece that requires you to travel from room to room to view deconstructed, lyrically suggestive scenes from "Macbeth", is unconventional, but more like a self-guided tour forcing you to play a role. And the breathtaking New York company Third Rail Projects, which accompanied "Play Ghost Light" Playgoers on a spectral hike through every nook and cranny of a theater, requires only the effort that follows the actors, steep stairs and tight corners in the wings follow .

Washington's theatergoers get a foretaste of Third Rail's work in March when their world premiere production "Confection" – commissioned by the Folger Theater – is presented in the Paster and Bond Reading Rooms of the Folger Shakespeare Library. "Confection", inspired by the theme of "Nell Gwynn," a new piece by Jessica Swale about a restoration actress who will play at Folger during Third Rail 's run, is a "multi – sensory dance and theater performance that captures the cultures of Consumption, "says Folger, as part of the event sweets are served.

Allow me to say that I am all for the interactivity of dessert. It is the more aggressive appeal to take part in a play like "The Fever", that gives me a break. I am not sure if the risk of making theater a living art form should raise my fears that I will be asked for help.

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