Playing all the angles
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's "WillFul" doesn't take place in the familiar setting of a dark theater. It's innovative, interactive and on the move.
"WillFul" is the first site-specific theater event at OSF, directed by Michael Rohd, who is co-creator along with Shannon Scrofano.
What is site-specific theater all about? As OSF puts it, you show up with a ticket but not a seat. Site-specific theater asks the audience to experience a story in motion, to walk with the actors (who remain in character) and to see a play from new angles — mentally and physically.
"By simply asking the audience to move around and to make their own meaning of the story, it becomes interactive," says cast member David Salsa. "The show is not spoon-fed to you. It's not a predictable, linear narrative, but we aren't trying to confuse anyone, either."
Though audiences might feel as if they are on a tour as they walk down Pioneer Street behind their favorite OSF actors, there is a solid script, and it is a staged event. Theater lovers have the opportunity to experience the unfolding of an intimate story in a fresh and imaginative light just feet away from actors they've been coming to see for years.
"You're a citizen of this community for this event, which means some level of presence and participation," says Rohd in OSF's play guide, e-Luminations. "But in terms of participatory action, nobody's going to have to do anything."
Audiences begin the event outside the Elizabethan Stage and will visit four sites. They are split into five groups, convening and separating throughout the story as they travel the OSF campus. But the story doesn't break in the transitions; every minute is intentional, explains Salsa.
Patrons are ushered by the actors assisted by a chorus of Southern Oregon University interns. Eventually, the whole crowd ends up at the former Black Swan Theatre.
"The SOU interns have been pivotal in making the show happen," says Salsa. "They help facilitate the movement and have truly been remarkable."
The play is about the human journey. Each character is searching for something, and it seems only fitting that the show, audience included, is in transit.
"This is the most unique, beautiful and challenging project I've been a part of as an actor," says Salsa. "The creators are mad geniuses."
"WillFul" runs through Oct. 9. All shows are matinees. The play is accessible for patrons with mobility issues, and maps of the OSF campus are provided at the start of the performance. See www.osfashland.org or call 541-482-4331.
Hannah Darling is a writer in Ashland. Contact her at email@example.com.