After a complicated labor that included a boobs and booze controversy and a ridiculous 4-night creation schedule, Sweet Beast welcomed a new life form into our world.
All Saints Salon is Sweet Beast’s take on an immersive or interactive performance. It’s a mode that all the kids are trying these days after the smash success of Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More (which follows the footsteps of works like The Donkey Show by Diane Paulus, Villa Villa by De La Guarda, and many more stretching back to Warhol, Augusto Boal, and the salons of the French Enlightenment. I’ve even heard of contemporary shows made exclusively for wealthy patrons whose backgrounds are meticulously researched and then incorporated into a personalized immersive performance. Includes room, board, and derivations of Facebook posts.)
Most of these pieces share two elements: audience/performer proximity and site-specific design (that means it’s custom tailored to the unique architecture of a certain space). Many new shows take place in converted warehouses and other good places to make a mess. Also, in London and New York, audiences don’t mind venturing to out-of-the-way venues. It’s the reason you live and visit those places.
Salt Lake is different, thank God. The simplest place to create our show would be at the Rose, our home theater complex. The challenge was how to transform a standard proscenium into an immersive environment. My answer was to put the audience onstage, surround them with scenes, lead them to offstage installations, and have performers slip in and out of their midst. Of course, it meant reducing theater capacity by 85% (that’s right– from 500 to 75). As UMOCA director Kristian Anderson remarked after the show, entrepreneurs spin straw into gold and artists turn that gold back into straw.
Yet in the end, one of All Saints Salon‘s biggest artistic achievements is how it manages that tiny audience of 75. It was the hardest design element to figure out. For instance, we had to account for how long it takes for 40 people to ingest a shot of tequila one-at-a-time. Couldn’t find the answer on the Internet, damnit. Luckily, a group of willing victims came to our dress rehearsal so we could practice on them. We made a bunch of adjustments for a single performance the next night. And that was all she wrote for 2015. We had no more time in the theater.
All Saints Salon returns with more changes in October 2016. It will be offered publicly but still super limited– 5 presentations, each with a capacity of 75. It’ll go onsale in June 2016. Season Members get priority ticketing to Salon and all our other events and shows, nudge nudge. More about Salon here.
The only way to pull this off was with a crack team. In fact, it was our performers who inspired the effort in the first place. They are an amazing and rare bunch who get better upon closer inspection (something not true of many performers who come from the dance world). We wouldn’t have gone into battle without Production (aka Everything) Manager Liz Ferguson’s organizational and artistic gunpowder. Lighting Designer Cole Adams had the cojones to land the plane on a teeny, foggy runway that was invisible until a moment before touchdown. Film maker Anson Fogel graciously agreed to be a part of the folly. Thanks to everyone else who made it possible: our new pals at MINX; our volunteer docents Darren, Brandon, and Natalie; Salon patrons and donors; dress rehearsal guinea pigs; Rose staff; and SB Dance Board Members.
But the wizard behind the curtain was certainly Board President Tamara Gibo. Every time I wanted to abort mission, Tamara figured out how to move forward. Without her persistence and leadership, her vision for what’s important to the organization and community, this show would have been a should-have-been. This one was yours, Tamara. Merci beau.
— Stephen at Sweet Beast Central Command, Playhouse, and Leaf Bagging Center