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With live, in-person performances still a distant hope, 4615 Theatre has been focusing instead on expanding into other realms of theater and theatricality.
“We’ve found much more inspiration in looking in places that aren’t really theater, where we find the spirit of theater manifested,” says Jordan Friend, the D.C.-area company’s founding artistic director. “We had to ask ourselves: What makes something theatrical?”
One defining characteristic that Friend and producing director Gregory Keng Strasser agreed on: “[It has] to create experiences where each iteration feels unique to the person experiencing them — rather than, say, filming something and putting it on a stream. That’s not theatrical to us.”
So the company went the video game route. “With his experience in video game design, Greg proposed a choose-your-own-adventure video game, because in that case, every time someone plays it, they get an experience unique to them,” Friend says. In April, the company will premiere Dark City, an episodic video game conceived, written, and programmed by Strasser that will also feature the voices of local theater artists, plus an original score by Friend.
Dark City is part of a new slate of bold, diverse programming dubbed “4615 Go” that officially launches this week with It’s For You. The work of iterative, slightly improvised poetry takes shape during hour-long phone conversations between local playwright Britt A Willis and one audience member at a time. “For the audience member it feels like a casual phone call, but Britt has an incredibly prepared game plan for how it goes,” Friend says. Willis will adapt and personalize a special poem after each in a total of 20 calls.
Also on the docket: Old Soul, a cabaret-style “narrative concert” by Friend structured around a series of original folk/pop tunes that help tell a “very confessional, almost aggressively personal story.” Friend will perform the work live in small, interactive group video calls over Zoom.
“They’re all really, really different things, and they’re all in different mediums,” Friend says. “But that’s kind of the point. We’re saying, ‘We’re not going to try and recreate what it feels like to see theater. We’re instead going to ask people to consider how many different things can be theater.’
“Each one of these experiences is, by design, a risk. And that’s on brand for us. Because even when we’re doing our normal stuff, it’s never normal.”
It’s For You runs through Feb. 28. Tickets are $20 per show, or $25 to $50 for Silver or Gold passes with access to Dark City in April. Visit www.4615theatre.com.
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