Connection, intimacy and locality are essential principles of the shared experience of theatre. In my more recent work, I have explored these principles not just in the exchange between strangers, but also through participation strategies that place the viewer inside the work. This represents a shift in my practice toward forms that allow for audiences to be in direct contact with each other, and without a performer. For theatre today, participation matters because it brings people into relationship with each other, and endows spectators with a certain amount of creative risk-taking necessary for discovering new things.
I met Adrienne Wong in 2011. Adrienne was showing her PODPLAYS as part of the PuSh festival in Vancouver. PODPLAYS were audio tours that took audiences through Vancouver streets using headsets and MP3 players. The work shared a lot of similarities to the work I was doing in THE COMMON. Adrienne writes:
I’m a theatre artist frustrated with conventional theatre practice where the professionals DO and the audience WATCHES. My projects emerge out of my own desire as an audience member to engage directly with the action, to participate. Looking at this list of projects alongside those listed by Dustin and Secret Theatre, it’s hard not to notice the similarities. I was pleased to find another artist working on these preoccupations – if only to have someone to chat with about the potentials and challenges of working in an audio format as well as our desires to challenge ourselves… and the form itself. An idea for a new project emerged quite easily and naturally out of these conversations. The only thing keeping us apart was the vast geography of the nation.
Six months later we began working on LANDLINE, a shared experience for two strangers on opposite sides of the country, The piece uses city streets, cell phone technology and poetic suggestion to engage audience members in an unlikely game of rendezvous. Technically the way the piece worked is simple. Two audience members each had an iPod that was synched through a countdown in real time by Adrienne and I using a video chat. Once synched, the audio was in essence playing simultaneously over both headsets. Within the track converse in real time using instant message. The participants’ own mobile phone acted as a bridge between the two cities. LANDLINE depends on the participant’s ability to overcome the distance, to humanize the other, to use technology for the purposes of bringing us closer together in the here and now. Adrienne suggests,
But this distance itself is part of my interest in this project. We now live with the technology to share sound files, images and words cheaply, easily and almost simultaneously. I want to entangle listeners on opposite sides of the country, to create a situation where one’s actions is linked to the other. With LANDLINE I want to engage audience in an event that can only happen now, that extends their imagination to hold the entirety of the country and one other individual at the same time.
By establishing a carefully choreographed sequence of events, the project encouraged people to become performers in an imaginary play unbeknownst to anyone else, while creating an atmosphere of quiet contemplation between two parallel experience cities. As a theatre, the performance challenges the notion of a shared experience. Over great distances, two strangers, through doing something at the same time, act as scene partners, making the places around them come alive through simultaneous engagement.
LANDLINE takes a game of possible rendezvous, an accidental meeting in a public place, as an elaborate metaphor by asserting that a far-reaching yet intimate connection is, on some point of comparison, the same as the theatrical event. We intended LANDLINE to challenge the idea of the shared experience, to put people in relationship with one another, to discover similarities and differences, and to see participation as a crucial part of social life. We wanted to make the city come alive through this action. In doing so, giving an audience a certain amount of accessibility, and inclusion that it is going to matter to them personally.
LANDLINE is being presented this week between Halifax, Nova Scotia and Cardiff, Wales.
4,412 km apart, 4 timezones
In Halifax, the times that are still available as of nov 5th 11.00pm are:
Saturday: 12:45, 1:15, 1:30
Sunday: 11:15, 11:45, 12:15
In Cardiff, most spots are open….you can book spots directly at chapter box office, or here: