When Jeromy Barber conceived Lionshare, he wasn’t interested in a traditional theater experience, which here means people coming into a place, sitting down, seeing a show, and applauding enthusiastically at the end. No, Barber, creator and director of local production company Dinolion, wanted something immersive.
“We want it to be like a sandbox, where people roam freely and things happen simultaneously in the space,” he explains about the experience he wants the audience to have. “There’s a narrative that we liked and were inspired by, but we want people to experience this in their own ways.”
Barber teamed up with James Templeton and Traci Lavois Thiebaud to develop the show, which is based on the music of Merel and Tony, a duet known for their ethereal vocals and stirring melodies. Billed as a “multi-media theater concert experience,” Lionshare is designed not so much to be a story, although it has one and it tells one, but to build a world for the audience, and then let them explore it on their own terms. More than 40 artists of all stripes from Houston and Louisiana were part of mounting the production, which Barber says has changed at nearly every rehearsal.
Barber and his fellow creators don’t want to tell audiences how to feel or even how they should approach the material. They’re much more interested in allowing them to come at it from wherever they are, and be part of something unique.
“This is a story of a fissure in a family,” says Thiebaud. “But there’s a lot of layers to this and ways for people to experience it.”
And make no doubt, experience is Dinolion’s raison d’etre. Those who purchase tickets to Lionshare won’t be told where to go for the show until shortly before they need to show up. Press materials and the show’s own ticket page refer to an “Secret Midtown Location” and advise audience members to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to stay for the entire two-and-a-half-hour performance. Dinolion is banking on the idea that people who like something that’s outside the box are ready to buy in to the concept.
“You can go to a theater and sit and see a show,” says Barber.
“Or you can go to a concert and stand and watch a band,” interjects Thiebaud.
“But there are not many experiences that allow you to explore the material on your own terms the way this does,” finishes Barber.
Lionshare runs Jan. 22–Feb. 3. More info and tickets at dinolion.com.