Fearing the Storm

“How long will you stay in your comfort zones?”

-Chicago Tap Theatre, Circo Tap

Approaching storm, change to new, threat of power, all things that evoke fear were central to Walkabout Theater Company‘s adaptation of The Tempest, Storm. The troupe pushed audience engagement by nearly sending a wrecking ball through the fourth wall.

Walkabout Theater Company's STORM

Walkabout Theater Company’s STORM

The show starts with the beckoning of an actor through entering though the the front door, making his way through the lobby stride by stride, drawing out glances leading the audience into the theater. Actors leap, move through and direct the audience all through body movement. Beckoning engagement while using their force to make it seem natural, toeing line just next to the comfort zone.

With some main characters and the general structure of the tempest, but fear and change guided thematically. The feud between Prospero and Caliban becomes a central piece.

What do audience members fear the most?

Fresh on my mind from seeing Chicago Tap Theatre’s latest, Circo Tap.  Combining tap dance with circus performance made for a daring combination. Tap dancers turned acrobats, turned clowns, turned escape artists! Something about the novelty of circus acts evoked that edge of the seat fear. They reached out, engaged by utilizing surrounding balconies to echo sound, spewing down aisles with gymnastic feats, even literally reaching out and shaking audience members hands. The whole performance was strikingly narrated by Marc Kelly Smith as the ring master seeking inspiration for a new act. The audience gasps with fear at tightrope walkers at lion tamers, but his fear draws them in and makes it impossible to look away. After storm, I had a new lens to examine what is intriguing about circus is that fear involved in live performance.

circo tap

One can often see the fear course through an audience when an actor is going to pull someone up on stage. You know this scene; a comedy club, audience members sink deeper into their chairs dreading that contact with the performer.

Engaging can be scary.

Both storm and Circo tap evoked this fear strongly, but once the audience was in, the emotional investment was apparent. Like a ritual, the audience had just enough fear to unite and invest fully to the performance.

I couldn’t help but think of my own fear and how what I dreaded most was also engaging. I DID NOT WANT TO WRITE! Like really did not. It was great thinking about this blog, imagining what it could be like, but the fear of an audience reading it made me freeze in my tracks. There is a fear mounting inside of myself that I can’t please my toughest audience member, me.

Fear drawing

I drew this picture simply with a sharpie (that had “write!” written on the cap). It shows the tension of being held back by fear and the cusp of breaking away. Tempestuous clouds, many forces pushing and pulling. I placed the sharpie in the frame with its shadow weighing down, just at the grasp of the hand. Reaching out of the comfort zone compelled me to do something that may not be good, but helped engage others in something more important, art.

Sometimes a healthy push towards that limit of the comfort zone is what pushes art, what engages community. Perhaps in this realm, the dreaded fomo (fear of missing out) can be greater to get more butts in seats enjoying daring performances like Storm and Circo tap. It is better to be there, to be present than to stay stagnant.

And lucky for you, it’s not too late! Walkabout theater performs The Wild at Links Hall July 8 and 9. More audience gripping fear this time with dionsyian elements is sure to engage at the Physical Festival!

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