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orjalo_yee

Photo: The Toronto Star
A Canadian theater critic interviewed actors who give 10-minute dramatic performances in people’s cars.

More than five years ago, I wrote about actors creating theater in taxis in Iran and linked to a separate article on taxi performances in New York (check out the post). So that’s just to say there is no new thing under the sun.

Still, people think up creative ideas for their own reasons and don’t necessarily know about similar efforts anywhere else. In today’s example, providing entertainment in cars was devised as a way to bring theater to Toronto suburbs where there are large Asian populations that seldom brave the downtown scene.

Karen Fricker wrote at the Toronto Star about picking up a series of actors in her car who put on 10-minute plays for her as a demonstration.

“[I] picked up three actors who directed me around streets previously unknown to me in downtown Markham and its environs, and who each made me believe in ten short minutes that their situations were really happening.

“I did this as a test driver for fu-GEN Theatre Company’s wildly ambitious show Fearless, which involves micro-performances for individual spectators in their own cars, and a web app which lets the show work, as artistic director David Yee describes it, like ‘Uber in reverse.’

“Fu-GEN is a Toronto-based company dedicated to reflecting Asian-Canadian experiences. This show ‘began as outreach, as a way to engage with the large Asian Canadian community who live in Markham, Richmond Hill, North York, etc., who we know exist, but don’t make it downtown to see our work,’ says Yee. …

“The goal of the project is to give Markhamites something new and curated for them … “Fu-GEN commissioned [writers] to author short scripts that address the themes of fear and fearlessness, and at the same time found a developer, Shawn Li, ‘who works at Microsoft during the day, then builds us a weird little theatre-in-cars app in his off hours,’ says Yee.

“From my user perspective I found the show streamlined and easy to navigate. In order to participate, you need to have a car you are insured to operate. You book online, choosing between a series of timed slots, and are given a link to an online app you can use from a browser on your phone (you don’t have to download anything).

“When the app goes live, photos of the 20 performers appear on a live map along with the titles and authors of their shows and a one-sentence description of the content. Once you confirm your choice of performer, the app guides you to their location — and you know it’s them because they’re wearing a bright yellow backpack (and they know it’s you because you’ve uploaded a photo to your online profile). The performer disappears from the live map during the ride and reappears once you’ve dropped them off. You then start over by clicking on another performer photo. …

“Yee says that safety was one of the core tenets of the project. ‘Every aspect of this experience, from the ground up, has been built with both audience and performer safety in mind. … How eerie is it for a stranger to greet you by your name? It can be comforting or it can be unsettling; all that potential is alive in just having that information at hand. The writers had the choice to use that for whatever purpose is useful to them.’ ”

For me, this experience sounds like fun, but I am also not afraid to go downtown for a show. I really wonder if people who are afraid of something that simple and distancing would pick up a stranger for an in-your-face performance.Would you try it?

More here.

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