subscribe: Posts | Comments

With ‘October House,’ Ghostbird working to perfect immersive experience for its audiences


Ghostbird Theatre Company’s next site specific performance piece will be October House, which opens on Halloween in the historic Langford-Kingston Home in downtown Fort Myers. Three separate pieces will be performed in various rooms in the house, with the audience moving from one to the next to view Antonin Artaud’s Jet of Blood, Samuel Beckett’s Not I and Beckett’s Rockaby.

This is not the first immersive affair that Ghostbird has performed in the Langford-Kingston Home. Barry Cavin’s original work Writing Shadows also followed this same bold, jarring promenade theater experience that had audience members climbing up and down Walter Langford’s grand stairwell and filing through various rooms in the rambling Craftsman home.

Ghostbird is known nationwide for its cutting edge, experimental site specific productions that shatter theater’s traditional fourth wall. Over just the past handful of seasons, the Company has staged immersive walk-along shows at both the Happehatchee Center (The Chicken Play) and Koreshan State Park (ORBS!). But while it may be working hard to perfect the art of site-specific immersive theater, it didn’t invent the genre. To the contrary, interactive plays like these have been exploding in popularity since Deborah Warner’s Manhattan-based Angel Project was chosen as the opening event for the Lincoln Center Festival’s 2003 season.

The first big hit in immersive theater was Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More. Set on multiple floors of an abandoned warehouse on a West 27th Street in Manhattan, Sleep No More invites audience members to move at their own pace as they view selected surreal and suspenseful scenes from a noir adaptation of Shakespear’s Macbeth.

Among the more memorable immersive productions is British playwright Jonathan Holmes’ Katrina, which premiered in London in 2009. Similarly set in an abandoned warehouse on the Thames River, audience members were ushered throughout the building’s various floors in order to give them “a precise and evocative account” of what it means to be caught up in the middle of mass devastation like that which befell New Orleans in the aftermath of the 2005 storm.

For The Tenant, Woodshed Collective chose an abandoned Presbyterian Church, using all five floors of the building for their production. Audience members were encouraged to follow one set of characters throughout the building or bounce around individually from floor to floor.

You Me Bum Bum Train is wildly popular in the New York at this very moment. Playwrights Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd think of their piece as more of a ride and less of play. Instead of a car like Disney employs in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Bond and Lloyd utilize wheelchairs to transport audience members through a maze of rooms where they enjoy experiences ranging from coaching a football team to victory to jumping into the arms of adoring fans at a rock concert.

Thanks to Ghostbird, local theater-goers needn’t fly to London or New York to savor productions such as these.

Ghostbird’s immersive productions are every bit as engaging, exhilarating and transcendent as those in Manhattan or London’s West End. And that’s largely attributable to Ghostbird co-founder and FGCU Theatre Professor Barry Cavin and the team of actors that Ghostbird casts in these processional shows.

Cavin is masterful at connecting each room or space in which a performance takes place to the emotions contained in the piece being performed. Ghostbird’s assemblage of actors excels at infusing individual audience members with the feeling of agency that infuses immersive theater with its profound sense of immediacy and gives impetus to audiences’ desire to be more than mere spectators – to become a character in an unfolding story. Together, the closely-knit Ghostbird Company consistently provides its audience members with not just a show, but a memorable personal individual experience.

While we don’t yet know what Cavin and Ghostbird have in store for us in October House, it’s certain to be innovative, thought-provoking and novel. So make plans to visit the Langford-Kingston Home for October House.

October 28, 2019.

Comments are closed.