Bricolage Production Company

Through August 30
8 p.m. & 2 p.m.

What happens when audiences and artists swap and share roles to rewrite the rules of theater? Blurring the boundaries between creator and spectator, and reinventing the live theater experience, Bricolage Production Company is presenting its latest edition of In The Raw: (R)evolution.

Reflecting the shifting landscape of contemporary theatre and underscoring current national and international trends in the art form, the Downtown-based company has reworked its ongoing In The Raw Festival to bring audiences to the forefront of the creative practice. Kicking off on August 21st, In The Raw invites theater-goers to experience the culmination of a groundbreaking creative process that involves two playwrights, four weeks and a realm of endless possibilities.

During the Raw process, two teams of local theatre artists worked together to create two brand new plays inspired by Pittsburgh’s landscape, people, history and future. Using Bricolage’s audience to generate source material has resulted in plays of the people, by the people and for the people of Pittsburgh.

So how does it all work?

It all started to percolate on July 21st, when Bricolage hosted 50-plus people in a Town Hall-style meeting that created the framework for the production of two new theatrical works. Participants worked alongside Bricolage performers, directors, dramaturgs and writers, playing improv games and developing material that became the inspiration and source for two playwrights—who were of course observing all of the real-time action very closely. Via a series of exercises led by Bricolage, the group generated guiding elements for the workshop production such as theme, character and setting.

The engaging experience led to some very powerful moments. Inspired by the day’s newspaper, six virtual strangers spent ten minutes composing a monologue—all with no talking allowed. Each member took a turn writing one sentence at a time. After ten minutes had passed, one member of the group read the mesmerizing monologue. The resulting stories ranged from a teacher’s first day on the job at Homewood High School, to a young man on the eve before going to prison, to one woman’s ill-fated encounter with a pesky squirrel.

Engaging public audiences on an entirely new level, the Town Hall session encouraged participants to actively use their voices, bodies, minds and souls for three solid hours along with the Bricolage team. With actors, audiences and writers all taking risks together, the innovative process is helping to create a new vocabulary for contemporary theater. Exploring a recent shift to audience-forward work, Bricolage’s bold experiment culminates with a series of performances during In The Raw. Tami Dixon, producing artistic director at Bricolage, says that “bringing artists and audience together in one space to begin this journey was, in a word, magical.”

The project also creates a space for fluid dialogue, movement and creative expression, and erases traditional barriers that exist between producers and spectators. One Town Hall audience member even described the experience via social media as “acting exercises are like yoga for the soul.” Sharing moving and evocative stories from their lives, Town Hall participants got to actually see their contributions as they become integrated into the final plays.

Following the Town Hall gathering, ensemble members were selected by each writer via an “NFL-style draft” and placed with a director. Over the subsequent four weeks an immersive creation process unfolded, during which each ensemble received equal rehearsal and creation time to generate and rehearse scripts. Following a brief tech process, each group presented their plays for four repertory performances set for the last two weekends in August.

The project’s active use of social media is already generating buzz, with two teams posing questions and responses, and sparking dialogue with the community at large. #TeamBlastFurnace features playwright Connor Pickett, director Risher Reddick and actors Lauren Bethea, Chris Josephs, Connor McCanlus, Missy Moreno and Kelly Trumbull. #TeamIncline includes playwright Maureen McGranaghan, director Cynthia Croot and actors Jill Keating, Lara Miller, Joel Richardson, Bria Walker and Andrew Wind. The project’s dramaturgs are Annie DiMario and Tyler Crumrine.

View a complete performance schedule and purchase tickets.

Read more about Tami Dixon and Bricolage in NEXTpittsburgh.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...