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Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre

Theatre artists across the globe are taking theatre out of the auditorium and into the world via a multitude of mediums.

Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre

Thanks to our new pandemic reality, the ambitions, aspirations, and survival instincts of the arts profession have been tested in every way imaginable. Artists around the globe have risen to this challenge in multifarious ways, creating new and exciting innovations for an ancient artform.

From custom socially-distanced auditoriums to advancements in air filtration and disinfecting to strict protocols for audiences, actors, and staff, the return to traditional venues has been largely an experiment in trial and error, with numerous concepts deployed to varying degrees of success. With the present and future of theatre as we know and love it still largely uncertain, many artists are forging ahead in other ways, creating unique and impressive theatrical experiences via a multitude of mediums.

Check out some of the ways theatre companies and artists across the globe are taking theatre out of the auditorium and into the world whether by foot, by mail, by car, via cutting-edge technology, or simply from the safety of your own home.


Audio/Radio Plays

The radio play was first popularized in the 1920s and enjoyed a reign as a top form of entertainment through the advent of television in the 1950s. Though other forms ofMixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre entertainment have somewhat diminished its prominence over the last century, the form has stuck around, most recently enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the form of serial and narrative podcasts. Since the Covid-19 pandemic swept in, indefinitely shuttering many theatrical spaces, theatre artists are once more bridging the gap between the stage and the studio, turning to the audio form to bring productions to life.

Theatre of the Electric Mouth is just one company to spring out of this rejuvenated medium, employing an international collective of artists to produce literary audio dramas. Since August 2020, the company has presented nearly a dozen audio experiences, available to enjoy on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Their latest work, No One At the Door, is now available for streaming.

Chicago theatre company, Cabinet of Curiosity, recently unveiled its new radio Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatredepartment, Phonophobia. Their first production will be an inside-out adaptation of the classic expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, presented online February 21 through March 20, providing a classic horror radio experience to modern audiences.

Another Chicago company, Theatre in the Dark, has also been busy presenting acclaimed audio plays. Their slate of works so far includes the sci-fi classic A War of the Worlds, the holiday staple A Christmas Carol...In the Dark, and a noir thriller Three Stories Up. The productions are presented live with on demand streaming available following the performances. Their next exciting audio experience, Moby Dick...In the Dark, will begin streaming March 11.

Next week, actors from Broadway and London's West End will team up for theMixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre Shakespeare@ Home, all-free radio play Julius Caesar, featuring Hadestown star Patrick Page in the title role with Jordan Barbour of The Inheritance as Brutus and Keith Hamilton Cobb as Cassius. The production is the third audio play produced by @Shakespeare this season and will launch Monday February 22nd at 7pm EST.

Off-Broadway company Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, recently launched new episodes of its acclaimed MTA Radio Plays series. Featuring the work of numerous notable playwrights, each episode is inspired by a stop along the MTA's 2 train line with each writer selecting a stop that reflects their own experience. Episodes 4-6 debuted on January 27, featuring the work of David Zheng, Guadalís Del Carmen, and Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of TheatreTJ Weaver, directed by Dominic Colón.

JAG Productions in Vermont has reshaped its annual new works festival of Black Theatre, JAGfest, to present love stories in the form of audio plays. This year JAGfest 5.0 will feature works from playwrights Jeremy O'Brian, Loy A. Webb, Raven Cassell, Azure D. Osborne-Lee and Shemika Wardlaw. These writers have been paired with a bold roster of directors to bring these audio works to life. The plays are available for on demand streaming through February 19.

Theatre By Mail

You've got mail! With the help of some incredible creativity (and the postal service) a number of companies have taken their shows offstage, offline, and straight into yourMixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre mailbox, delivering an entirely new, interactive theatrical medium.

Artistic Stamp, a by-mail theatre company created in lockdown, recently announced its second season of literary experiences, taking audience members on interactive, narrative adventures delivered through handwritten letters in the mail. Audience members will become pen-pals to characters in the stories, reacting and replying to the letters they receive, and playing a role in deciding the outcome.

The second season features an eclectic and far-reaching variety of storytelling experiences, including the story of history-making Black journalist Ida B Wells, an adult-only romance, a new twist on a Shakespeare favorite, a musical in the mail, two Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatreshows for young audiences, a sci-fi adventure and a Central Park animal mystery.

The inaugural Post Theatrical Play Festival recently began its six month run, courtesy of Pittsburgh's RealTime Interventions. A collective of thirteen theater groups and over fifty artists originating in eight cities across the globe have joined forces for a festival of works that utilize mail as a theatrical medium. The festival launched on February 1 and will run through June 30, 2021, featuring a diverse range of works that use the medium of mail in a broad range of ways.

Drive In & Drive Thru Theatre

Drive-thrus aren't just for fast food anymore. In order to create completely safe and socially distant productions for actors and audiences alike, companies have turned to vehicular theatrical experiences as a solution. In addition to the wealth of drive-in movie theaters that have cropped up since the pandemic began, theatre companies are staging full productions that can be enjoyed from the sanitary safety of audience members cars.

This summer, Tony Award-nominated director Michael Arden assembled his Forest of Arden company for a walk and drive- through experience titled, American Dream Study. This site-specific theatrical experiment provided a first-of-its-kind socially-distanced communal experience for the age of COVID-19.

The piece was staged throughout several Columbia County towns. Throughout theMixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre experience audience members received instructions on when and where to drive, park and walk via several smart technologies, providing viewers with a totally unique experience as well as necessary patronage to local businesses in the host communities.

Tony-winning set designer David Korins also got in on the act, delivering stunning, large scale sets for the Elf on the Shelf Holiday Drive Thru Experience in Los Angeles. From the safety of their cars, attendees were transported through a series of larger-than-life, holiday dream worlds, including a Toy Repair Workshop, Gingerbread Village, Arctic Winter Wonderland, and Santa's Magical Grotto creating a truly magical holiday experience.

Oakland Theater Project recently launched its season of drive-in theater with the 30th anniversary production of Binding Ties: The 16th Street Station, a site-specific installation at the historic Southern Pacific Railroad Station in West Oakland. From Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of TheatreFebruary 11-28, the production is being presented as a drive-in theater production, Created by Stephanie Anne Johnson, the piece recalls the lives and legacies of the West Oakland community in the early 20th century.

In addition to Binding Ties, the company will present several other drive-in productions this year including a world premiere adaptation of T.S. Elliot's The Waste Land, Begin The Beguine: A Quartet Of One Acts, the world premiere of The Dream Life of Malcolm X, Ghost Quartet from Tony-nominee Dave Malloy, and the world premiere of sAiNt jOaN (burn/burn/burn).

Immersive/Walk Through Theatre

The immersive production grew in popularity in the 2010s thanks to fantastic site-specific productions like Sleep No More, Queen of the Night, and Accomplice. This format came particularly in handy in 2020 when gathering in close quarters was no longer an option. Theatre artists have embraced the form both in and out of doors, creating unique experiences for audiences everywhere.

Philadelphia's EgoPo Classic Theater will present a series of radically-intimate, socially-distanced productions as part of its Isolations season. The season begins withMixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre Rockaby, Samuel Beckett's famed intensive 10-minute one-woman show, taking place March 10-21, 2021.

Audiences experience Rockaby one audience member at a time with a masked guide leading onlookers to a window, through which they will gaze upon a woman in a rocking chair, isolated inside her home, longing for connection. Audience members are treated to hypnotic text via disposable headphones as they glimpse her haunting journey through the window.

Lyric Stage Company of Boston is also combining audio and immersive experiences with their series The Walking Plays. Audience members are treated to a guided audio experience as they explore the heart of Boston on foot, providing a way for audiences to explore both the hidden gems and iconic landmarks of Boston and the joy of theatre beyond the stage. The series includes six 10- to 15-minute plays exploring "private moments we experience in public."

Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of TheatreListeners can use maps provided by the company to walk along with the plays or simply listen to them from their own homes. Together, the plays will form a loop beginning in Copley Square, winding through the city, and ending at a special location in the Back Bay. The Walking Plays will include "Easter eggs" throughout the walk, which adds another level of enjoyment for listeners. The plays are available for free on the Lyric Stage's website.

Miami's Arscht Center recently announced its own moveable theatrical feast, Art Heist Experience. Based on a true story of the world's biggest art caper, Art Heist Experience is a true-crime walking show where socially distanced groups of up to 35Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre people move through five walkable locations to gather clues.

The amateur detectives interact with a wild group of wily career criminals, slimy con men, rumpled art-recovery specialists, a possible inside man, a gentle psychopath and the larger-than-life but definitely real self-proclaimed "Greatest Art Thief of All Time" as they work to solve the case. Running March 16- April 4, 2021.

Multimedia/Interactive Events

Though the pandemic has inspired a back-to-basics approach for many companies as they utilize and revamp the familiar forms of audio and visual experiences, some artists have begun looking to the future. Though the theatre is no stranger to high-tech experiences, these artists have taken things up a notch, using technology to Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatrewow audiences with immersive and interactive experience designed for venues and homes alike.

In March, Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company will introduce its interactive, motion capture experience, Dream. The pioneering collaboration explores how audiences could experience live performance in the future in addition to a regular visit to a venue.

Using the latest gaming and theatre technology together with an interactive symphonic score that responds to the actors' movement, Dream gives a unique opportunity for audiences to directly influence the live performance from wherever they are in the world from their smartphone, desktop, or tablet.

Inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, audiences are invited to explore Shakespeare's magical forest from the canopy of the trees to the roots. With Puck as their guide, audiences can meet the sprites, take an extraordinary journey into the eye of a cataclysmic storm and more.

Audiences can choose to buy a £10 ticket to take part and at key points in the play directly influence the world of the actors, or view the performance for free. The ten Dream performances are scheduled so that audiences across the world can join the event.

This year, the spectacular digital art installation, Immersive van Gogh, will have its USMixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre premiere in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. After acclaimed stops in over 50 cities, the incredible exhibit invites visitors to explore Van Gogh's work via massive cutting edge technology and design.

Created by legendary pioneers of immersive digital art experiences seen around the globe, Immersive van Gogh invites audiences to "step inside" the iconic works of van Gogh. Utilizing over 500,000 cubic-feet of projections, the exhibition features stunning scenes that illuminate van Gogh's 2,000+ lifetime catalog of masterpieces His paintings will be presented as how the artist first saw the scenes they are based on: active life and moving landscapes turned into sharp yet sweeping brushstrokes.

In the UK, The Barn Theatre is currently presenting an interactive concert featuring West End stars titled, The Society of Secret Leading Ladies. The piece takes audiences Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatreinto a world where musical theatre characters can co-exist in the same space regardless of era or genre.

Over the course of the concert, the viewer is presented with 5 'Choose Your Player' screens, which prompts them to decide the character they wish to introduce next. The experience has over 150 combinations to choose from. Each character is introduced with a short scene, before taking to the stage to perform a number. The concert closes with a finale that features all 14 characters, providing a chance to get a glimpse at all the characters involved. The piece will run through March 7.

Boston's American Repertory Theater is also experimenting with the theatrical potential of technology, presenting The Conjurors' Club, a live interactive multi-magician virtual experience created by Vinny DePonto and Geoff Kanick, from March 13 - April 4, 2021.Mixed Media: How Artists Are Taking the 'Theater' Out of Theatre

The Conjurors' Club offers audiences an immersive, digital front-row seat to take part in performances and interactions with three different magicians. The amazing mind-reading, reality-bending illusions, and extraordinary transformations promise to reach through the screen and into your home via technology as well as a physical secret package designed for audience use throughout the show that is guaranteed to surprise and delight all of your senses.


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