Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Bricolage Has Mastered Dive-In Theater

With Bricolage Production Co. at the helm, immersive theater has arrived in Pittsburgh. Get ready to leave your seat behind.




Photo courtesy Bricolage Production Co.
 

 

You are dancing with a young woman in a prom dress in an otherwise empty gymnasium. Dull lights flicker as a broken voice sings plaintively through far-off speakers. A moment ago, you were communicating wordlessly with a mute man in a beachside hut. He rubbed oil on your hands.

A year passes, and now you’re trapped in a sprawling concrete basement with a group of deranged, possibly possessed assailants. Two of them handcuffed you and made very specific threats that rattled you thoroughly; after a few tense minutes, they chucked you into a pitch-black closet and locked the door. You thought you were in there alone. You weren’t.

Another year passes. Now, you and a group of strangers are at an estate sale, rifling through the possessions of a woman who recently — and mysteriously — died. You came thinking of bureaus and sofas; now, you’re after secrets and scandals. Later, you’ll trade your personal information for a chance to learn more about this departed stranger.

All of this is theater, of course, but that can be very tough to remember.

The genre is so new that it doesn’t yet have an agreed-upon name; some prefer immersive theater, while others call it interactive theater. Defining this newborn style is nearly as hard as naming it, but in short, the productions are theatrical works in which audience members are participants. Sometimes this turns you into a fly on the wall; in other cases, you’re the main character. You’re never merely sitting and watching the show.

“We’ve always been interested in creating this heightened sense of involvement for the audience, and breaking down the sort of status quo of theater,” says Jeffrey Carpenter, artistic director and founder of Bricolage Production Co.

In August 2012, Bricolage mounted the massive production “STRATA” in which participants arrived at a classified downtown location and were ushered into a “refitnessing center,” as officious guides promised a self-help reawakening. As the experience progressed, each audience member was led, usually alone, through a series of odd and evocative encounters — including the meeting with the above-mentioned lone dancer.

This month, Bricolage will introduce another immersive experience as part of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. Carpenter is cagey about the details — the surprise in these productions often is half the fun — but he can reveal that the show, titled “OJO,” will begin with participants arriving at a mock travel agency to pick up an itinerary for an unorthodox global tour.

“We want to maintain that sort of mystery,” says Carpenter of the show, which the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust commissioned for the festival. “But it’s important to convey this idea that it is a journey into darkness. It is an expedition of sorts.” There’s a minor clue in the title: “ojo” is Spanish for “eye.”

A Spanish theater company, Teatro de los Sentidos — which brought its show “El Eco de la Sombra” to the 2008 Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts — introduced Carpenter to the immersive form. The first U.S. immersive production to snag national headlines, though, was “Sleep No More,” a production now in the fourth year of a Manhattan run (and based on prior runs beginning with a 2003 debut in London). In that show, participants don white masks and are free to roam through the fictional, noir-esque McKittrick Hotel; the wordless action of the performers loosely is based on the plot of “Macbeth.”

In Pittsburgh, “STRATA” was a financial success, despite high costs related to set (a fully transformed building, the former downtown Bally’s Fitness location) and cast and crew (close to 50), Carpenter says. It also was the spark for a series of more-recent productions. Scott Simmons, creator of Etna’s haunted attraction The ScareHouse, was a fan of “Sleep No More” and “STRATA.” In 2013, ScareHouse introduced “The Basement,” an immersive theater experience, as a separate offering. In addition to a sold-out Halloween run — which featured the above imposing kidnapping scenario — there has been a pair of one-night revivals. A new “Basement” will premiere later this year.

Actress and improviser Ayne Terceira was in the cast for both “STRATA” and “The Basement,” and in March, she brought her own immersive production, “Her Things: An Interactive Estate Sale,” to Lawrenceville’s ModernFormations Gallery. “It’s the best of high theater, which I love, and great improv — which I also love,” she says of the form.

“Her Things” will be revived Aug. 8-10 at ModernFormations; another immersive experience, “The Saints Tour,” also is forthcoming — it’ll be produced by Bricolage and set in Braddock.

While the challenges and logistics of mounting a production such as “STRATA” are great, the audience for immersive theater is growing at a rate that outpaces demand. All of the aforementioned productions enjoyed nearly or fully sold-out runs, with many audience members coming back for multiple performances.

“The ability to really suspend the audience’s sense of disbelief is that much greater when you’re working with the real world,” Carpenter says. “I think that personal approach to storytelling is something that can get in the audience’s imagination . . . you could really get lost in it.”
 

Info:

“OJO”

  • June 7-8, 12-16; Times TBD
  • Begins at 820 Liberty Ave., downtown
  • Free; sign up for a timeslot at trustarts.org
  • No one under 12 years old admitted; guests 12-18 must have parent’s permission
  • Standby tickets available in the event of cancellation
  • Comfortable shoes recommended, as participants will be required to walk some distance
  • 412/471-0999, bricolagepgh.org

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The Story Behind Those Colorful Globes Downtown

The “Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet” art exhibit intends to encourage passersby to consider the effects of climate change.

Grandmother's Wedding Accessories Timely for Today

The matriarch of the family is the perfect place to look for a meaningful something old.

The Fight for 15 Pays Off: AHN to Raise Its Minimum Wage

Allegheny Health Network is the latest employer in the region to raise its company-wide minimum wage.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in July

We eat for a good cause with Leo's Sunday Sauce, wonder what took us so long to get to Lola Bistro and hit the main menu at Muddy Waters. Plus, we go offline with Dave Anoia of DiAnoia's Eatery.

Lidia Bastianich Shares Her American Dream in a New Memoir

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein talks to the celebrated chef, restauranteur, television host and author about grandparents, foraging and the plight of refugees seeking a better life in the United States.

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

The Homestead Artist with a Worldwide Reputation

Jesse Best maintains a presence in New York and Tokyo. But, he says, Pittsburgh has been 10 times better to him than any other place.

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Sprout Fund Passes the Torch

50 Pittsburghers to receive $1,000 Legacy Award to carry on the nonprofit’s vision.

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Pirates Pitcher Steven Brault has Pretty Good Pipes Too

The Pirates reliever sang the national anthem Tuesday night before the Bucs hosted the Brewers at PNC Park. It's worth watching, especially for his teammates' reaction at the end.

Crime in the South Side Has Fallen Dramatically

Illegal activity plunged along East Carson Street following several new security measures.

Fired by City Paper — Charlie Deitch Won’t Be Silenced

The former editor of the Pittsburgh alt-weekly is creating his own "more inclusive" publication.

Czechoslovakia was Forged in Pittsburgh

Rick Sebak details how the establishment of the European nation began with a meeting Downtown.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


The Story Behind Those Colorful Globes Downtown

The Story Behind Those Colorful Globes Downtown

The “Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet” art exhibit intends to encourage passersby to consider the effects of climate change.

Comments

The Fight for 15 Pays Off: AHN to Raise Its Minimum Wage

The Fight for 15 Pays Off: AHN to Raise Its Minimum Wage

Allegheny Health Network is the latest employer in the region to raise its company-wide minimum wage.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

Reflecting on the loss of a person so many of us admired.

Comments

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Chef You Shan Pei comes to Pittsburgh after cooking in Flushing, N.Y. restaurants for 18 years.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

When you're craving the real deal, these local spots consistently churn out the very best.

Comments


The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

In "Will Work For Views," the video artist and musician Weird Paul is a little bit Dr. Demento and a little bit Mister Rogers.

Comments

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

The relaunched entertainment complex in Harmarville is casting a wide net, with some success.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The documentary about Fred Rogers' work and philosophy inspires even more wonder about the television legend who called Pittsburgh home.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Grandmother's Wedding Accessories Timely for Today

Grandmother's Wedding Accessories Timely for Today

The matriarch of the family is the perfect place to look for a meaningful something old.

Comments

Toppers That Take the Cake

Toppers That Take the Cake

Over the traditional bride and groom standing on top of your cake? Try some of these different ideas for cake toppers.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

Paying homage to the restorative power of nature, this deep green shade is one to watch in the coming year. Here’s how to use it on your walls.

Comments

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

From furniture to wall art and beyond, these local makers created one-of-a-kind pieces for your home or office.

Comments