The title of a play that manages to evoke both Shakepeare and coronavirus and provide a night out, safe from a global pandemic, is already an attention grabber.
But "Through Yonder Window," a drive-up theater experience in the transformed parking garage of The Gateway Mall, has been extended for two more weekends, delivering a different kind of theater and dance experience in the reality of COVID-19 life. As the title suggests, this play is based on "Romeo and Juliet" but is also viewed through the window of a vehicle, separating performers and audience by a car window -- with masks that serve as much as a performance enhancement as much as a safety feature.
The title comes from William Shakespeare:
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
Interactive theater is nothing new to choreographer Graham Brown. He, along with creative partner Rick Curtiss offer SONDERimmersive theater and dance that had a show ready to debut when COVID-19 changed the world practically overnight. While other theater turned to digital experiences, they thought to create something safe yet as interactive as possible. Brown spoke with KUTV about the extra weekends of "Through Yonder Window."
"On a certain level it's like 24 plays with 24 cars," he said.
Each of the vehicles are placed on a parking level, each in the stage that presents Verona in front of, next to and even behind the attendees. Some vehicles are parked in different sections of the city, perhaps near the church, and instead of the story of Romeo and Juliet, the experience presents the characters each experiencing their own stories, including, but not featuring, the famous star-crossed lovers.
"It elevates the stories of side characters," Brown said. Shakespeare's title characters aren't given the same superior status in "Through Yonder Window," though audience members could chose to watch them, or watch Tybalt, Mercutio, Friar Laurence or Lady Capulet or any of the rest of the cast. Brown described as something like a choose-your-own-adventure experience.
"In real life everybody has a story," he said. "You can look out the left side of the car and see one thing or look out the right side and see another thing."
What audiences have chosen is to attend the performances with enough demand to extend the show. In a pre-coronavirus entertainment world SONDERimmersive includes the audience in deeper ways, in this adaptation, there may still be performers pressed against windshields, or in close proximity to vehicles and sometimes, depending on where a car is placed in Verona, some characters aren't visible at all — by design.
The show has evolved since its opening, with more information presented to the audience and Brown says it's a different show, depending on where a vehicle is parked. Portions of the performances are improvisational in the collaborative show.
"The performers are always artistic collaborators but even more so this time."
The show is an hour long experience described:
We invite you to drive-in, park, and immerse yourself in the town of Fair Verona, where feuding households and unbridled passions are bound to erupt chaos at any moment. through a unique blend of dance and theatre; Montagues, Capulets, and familiar townspeople live out stories of forbidden love, passion, tragedy, revenge, and redemption, all around you.
Tickets are only available online, not at the door (or parking gate) at ThroughYonderWindow.com.
See the website for showtimes through July 3. Tickets are sold per car, not for individuals.