Sq Product Presents Greg Wohead's CELEBRATION, FLORIDA
Boulder-based square product theatre kicks off 2019 with the Regional Premiere of London, UK-based theatre-maker Greg Wohead's "Celebration, Florida," and innovative performance work that features performers who will not have seen or read the script before they perform.
Featuring two unrehearsed performers who have never met, "Celebration, Florida" is a quietly surreal show for anyone who has ever missed anyone or anything. Veering between reality and simulation, the piece orbits around ideas of surrogacy; a stand-in to replace a person you miss, a re-creation of an experience you can't stop thinking about, nostalgia for a place that perhaps never existed. Greg will speak to the audience through two performers using pre-recorded audio and headphones. They will know almost nothing about the show when they walk onstage.
"This play offers a really fun and unique opportunity for performers," says Emily K. Harrison, square product theatre producing artistic director. "Because they know so little about the play before they perform and because they're committed to being onstage with another performer they've never before met, it really requires a great deal of trust. They have to trust themselves and their instincts, they have to trust the playwright, and they have to trust the other performer - so really, they have to be willing to place their trust in the hands of complete strangers and be comfortable not knowing what may happen."
Harrison attended the opening night performance of Wohead's "Celebration, Florida" at London's Soho Theatre, where she met the playwright and hatched a plan to bring his work to Colorado.
"Celebration, Florida is a master planned community in Osceola County near Walt Disney World," says Wohead. "It was originally developed in the '90s by the Walt Disney Company as the ideal American town."
While it shares a name with a real life American city, the play itself is not about Celebration, Florida - at least not directly.
"'Celebration, Florida' is a theatre performance that deals with stand-ins, surrogates, cover versions," Wohead notes. "Things that are once, twice, three times (or more) removed; people and places that are at a distance, the longing involved when we miss people and the realization that the person we're missing (or the version of them we imagine) might never have existed in the first place."
"I wrote 'Celebration, Florida' at a time when I was often at a distance from people and places I loved and felt attached to. I found myself longing for these people and places, and [was curious about] what happens when we allow ourselves to question the reliability, the inevitability of the stories that make up our personal lives, our social relationships or our cultures," Wohead added. "In the play I try to use subtle ways of playing with the form of the performance to throw inevitabilities into question - two unrehearsed performers who have never met before stand in for me and perform the show guided by instructions via headphones. Sometimes you don't quite know what is a direct instruction or what is coming from the performers. There are allusions to a town in Florida that seems too strange to be real, but is it?"
"Hopefully as an audience member you're being guided towards images, sounds and feelings that seem familiar, but removed," said Wohead. "For me the heart of the piece is witnessing the experience of the two performers. The entire time you're seeing two performers who didn't know each other begin to spend time together, to get to know each other in some sort of way and depend on each other to get through the show. Maybe in amongst the confusion of conflicting stories and trying to parse out what's 'real' and what's not, we can just enjoy human connection."