The Brick Theater Film Festival may be drawing to a close, but there are still several exciting productions to experience before the month is out.
Bone Orchard’s “The Stubborn Illusion of Time,” directed by Anna Jones, and Gyda Arber’s “Suspicious Package” have received enthusiastic responses from audiences for their innovative ways of weaving video and film into their productions.
“It doesn’t use the stage at all,” Arber, a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts, said. “People really tend to have a great time and get to escape from their day to day lives.”
The “Suspicious Package” is an interactive noir-themed theater production, where audience members get to play a part in the show and cast themselves as one of the characters. Each show features four characters, a producer, a showgirl, an heiress, and a detective, so there is a limit of four tickets sold per performance. So far, every show has sold out and The Brick has extended “The Suspicious Package” for an open run.
“I’ve always been interested in interactive theater but it’s been disappointing,” Arber said. The audience usually gets turned into a different group of people. I like theater that challenges the audience a little bit and leaves them with some thought.”
Arber’s show depends completely on audience participation. After each audience member picks a character, they receive a Video Zune that contains their lines on a video. The handheld video monitors also show video flashback’s pertaining to their character’s biography and maps that tell characters where to go for different scenes, such as a nearby jewelry store or a bar in Williamsburg.
“We didn’t want people to look ahead so the characters do not know what is happening until the very end,” Arber said.
It took Arber and her writing partner, who also happened to be her mother, one month to sketch out the basic dialogue and plot of the play and another month to edit it.
“I’ve become quite a good video editor because of this,” Arber said. “I think it’s a much better show because we were encouraged to use the technology.”
Director Anna Jones agreed, saying that her theater group Bone Orchard has become much more technology-oriented in their productions. A graduate of the Yale Drama School, Jones’ newest production utilizes film and video from an earlier Bone Orchard production that took place in a former coffin factory on Kingsland and Graham Avenue in Williamsburg.
“We knew we had to use technology and film in our play,” Jones said. “The most successful piece of the work is the film.”
The film is a remix of the coffin factory production, where audience members were taken around different parts of the factory, encountering spirit girls and ghostly figures along the way.
“We did six shows but we got shut down on the last night because a tenant complained to the landlord,” Jones. “It was kind of awesome that we got thrown out.”
Jones’ play will take place at the Brick Theatre, though there are only two characters in the production, including an East German janitor. The film from the previous piece will be playing on a screen, TV monitors, and on the bodies of the characters performing in the play.
“The play is very unusual,” Jones said. “There is dialogue, but the story is in more of what you see than what you hear.”
“The Suspicious Package” will be starting at the Brick Theater on July 27, and will play an extended run, and the “Stubborn Illusion of Time” is playing at the Brick Theater July 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit www.bricktheater.com.
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