Australia’s One Step at a Time Like This lets theater-lovers loose in the city.
From the days when acting troupes traveled from town to town, setting up shop in the local square, to the Happenings of the 1950s and the more-recent zombie walks, public spaces have long been commandeered for performances. But “street theater” takes on a whole new meaning when the Melbourne-based One Step at a Time Like This rolls into town. This Aussie outfit — making its second appearance in the city as part of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s World Stage Series — gives the spectator a special role in the production.
Creators of what they call “mobile performance work,” One Step’s members employ audio and video to move the audience physically through the city. “We try to build a sort of vessel, which allows the audience member to view and experience the everyday world with the sort of heightened attention we usually reserve for the theater,” explains founding member Julian Rickert. “We go to the theater to find this heightened sense of life. We are trying to encourage people to find it also on the streets and places of their city.”
We go to the theater to find this heightened sense of life. We are trying to encourage people to find it also on the streets and places of their city.
Tailored for Chicago, the company’s “Since I Suppose” is inspired by Shakespeare’s dark comedy “Measure for Measure.” But don’t expect a line-for-line rendering of the play. As Chicago Shakespeare’s Executive Director Criss Henderson says, the piece is a “journey across a city inspired by the themes, places and people found in Shakespeare’s play.”
“One individual at a time experiences the piece, guided by headset audio from a specially designed app on a Motorola smartphone,” says Rickert. “Much of the content consists of ‘follow-films’: The audience member in the street follows a character, viewed through a handheld video device, through the same real locations in downtown Chicago.” In addition, the work utilizes audio, an accompaniment “woven from shards of text, music and instructions, along with mash-ups of YouTube audition pieces and audio from classic Shakespearean productions,” says Rickert. “The participant moves through the city, reconnoitering its judicial, sexual and religious institutions, and their own sense of institutional and moral boundaries.”
Clearly, this is not the Bard by-the-book. But as Henderson suggests, “By their very nature, classics are contemporary: lasting, relevant and always current. So I’m pretty sure Shakespeare would love this collaboration, two theater companies coming together in 2014 to create a new ‘Measure for Measure’ on the streets of Chicago. ‘All the world’s a stage,’ indeed.”
‘Since I suppose’: Presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions Ltd., in association with Melbourne Festival and Arts House. $45–$75, Aug. 28-Sept. 21. For tickets, call (312) 595-5600.
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