Landing Theatre has recently dabbled with immersive theater—those experiences where audiences turn up to a house or art gallery and become a part of the play’s action happening around them. Except Landing Theatre isn’t so much out to make the audience part of the story as it is to make the setting integral to the play.
“Each project has its own incarnation,” explains David Rainey, the company’s artistic director. “We look at the script and decide what the play is trying to do and then find the best place to showcase that.”
That’s led to the company doing shows in private homes and a closed-down café, something Rainey says lends a deeper theatrical experience.
Concurrent to that sort of nomadic theater experience is the exploration of new works and giving voice to new playwrights. That’s at the core of the company’s Micro Theatre Project, which commissioned works from local playwrights. Opening this week is Uncharted by Brendan Bourque-Sheil. It’s the story of Alyssa, who finds out her deceased father was a sperm donor and she has a half-sister, Olivia, who one day turns up at her doorstep, wanting to know about the man who gave her life.
Landing is mounting the play at 1520 Rutland St., a tiny bungalow tucked in the Heights. Rainey says the location is just as important as the material in the show.
“Microplays happen where they happen,” he says. “With this, the audiences should feel like they are sitting in a house, privy to some deeply personal moments.”
The idea of watching people’s lives as they unfold isn’t new to theater—that’s what most theater is—but Landing ups the ante by setting the play in an actual house. (That decision is both artistic and financial; Rainey said the company deliberately looks for plays with what he calls “smaller footprints” so they are easily mounted outside a traditional theater space, which Landing doesn’t have and which renting can prove financially challenging.)
The owners of 1520 Rutland saw Landing’s production of Oleanna, loved it, and reached out to ask how they could help the company. Turns out that Uncharted was a great fit for the property.
Rainey says the show runs about an hour and forces the audience to feel like a fly on the wall as these two women explore what family means. Bourque-Sheil wrote the first draft of the play last December and has rewritten it across workshops with Landing over the winter. The end result, Rainey says, is a play that explores how we handle it when life throws us massive curveballs.
“I’m hoping people come away with a feeling of having seen these characters live through one of the most stressful encounters in their lives, and how they handled it,” he says. “I think it will make sense for them why we chose to present it in a house.”
Feb. 7–17. Tickets $20. Performances at 1520 Rutland St. More info and tickets at landingtheatre.org.