Theatre for One?

There's an interesting theater experiment going on in NYC right now. Christine Jones, the Tony Award winning set designer of American Idiot, has developed a project called Theatre for One. Essentially, an individual enters a private booth inspired by peep shows and is pulled into a one on one theatrical experience with an actor on the other side of the booth. This video is intriguing.

Experimental theater interests me. I'm amazed by how far people are willing to push the conventions of theater to create a unique experience. This usually leads to multimedia extravaganzas, with actors, writers, dancers, musicians, and video artists collaborating on something new. I'd say something like the recent Sleep No More (the Macbeth adaptation where guests could wander freely from room to room to absorb the story and ambiance for a unique theatrical experience) is probably one of the broadest experiments to reach NYC in years.

But then someone like Christine Jones comes along. The Theatre for One idea isn't as strange as it might seem at first. Even in a large auditorium, theater can be a deeply personal experience. No two people are ever going to see the same show the exact same way. The words, the music, the movement, the performances, the design, even the sound and the quality of the seat can impact how you perceive a theatrical work. What Jones' project is doing is taking this personal reaction to its most intimate conclusion.

Just imagine being closed in a booth with an actor. There are speakers, lights, microphones, sets, props, and costumes. There is a script, direction, and cues for you--the audience--to respond. The only change from a larger production is how small the house is. There is no one else in the room to influence how you perceive the piece. It is an almost pure distillation of the theater-going experience accomplished in only a few minutes.

I hope I get the opportunity to see Theatre for One at some point. It just seems like such a great experiment into the response to theater. With all other distractions blocked out, how personal can the theatrical experience become for the audience member? I'm impressed that someone brought this idea to fruition and is now receiving help to bring it to a wider audience.

Would you be willing to participate in a one on one theatrical experience? Do you think this concept has legs beyond the initial novelty value? What kind of material would you hope to experience in such an intimate setting? Sound off.

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