It seems that the days when “going to the theater” was quite the fanciful event are over. As traditional theater, with its sweeping red curtain and massive, bright lights changes over time, artists like Aaron Landsman, who is collaborating with Gammage Theater and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in a new project, are putting a personal spin on the art form.
“Appointment,” a theatrical concept that Landsman created in 2009, will be held at both Gammage and the Cronkite school in April, creating an interesting collaboration not yet seen at ASU.
The concept of “Appointment” is to create a one-on-one theatrical performance between an actor and audience member that will be held in a third-floor office in the Cronkite building. With Landsman’s vision, each audience member will be able to attend three 15-minute performances in an office that is, essentially, his or her own space.
On Landsman’s personal website, the artist states that while some projects are staged in established performance venues, others are held in homes, offices and meetings rooms, where people perform their daily lives. Using a more familiar setting, Landsman says, helps transform the setting into a character itself, which “helps implicate the audience into action and exploits the theatricality of places we go every day.”
Laura Schaier, who works with the cultural participation part of Gammage, said that the office space and boardroom in the Cronkite school are amazing settings for Landsman’s concept.
“It’s a nice layout,” Schaier said. “All that glass — it’s theatrical.”
Landsman, who claimed he was a “total, big loser,” began performing theater in junior high where all the “misfits and freaks” went. He grew up involved in community theater and decided that writing and performing was what he loved to do. To him, writing and performing is just like “apples and oranges.”
He said he will always prefer writing what he performs because it is a “creative process that makes interesting material.”
“I’m really captivated in performances that happen in our normal lives,” Landsman said.
Every performance will be different, as local writers, actors and artists put on each show. By involving intimate monologues and question and answer sessions, Landsman hopes the audience members participate in the tight-quarter performances.
Schaier, who is supporting Landsman’s vision and helped him create this collaboration with the Cronkite school said that he is “ripping apart the concept of theater.”
“It’s going to be weird for an audience member,” Schaier said. “They’re going to be like, ‘What is going on?’”
Landsman said his goal with “Appointment” is to show how people working in offices are constantly performing theater without even knowing it, and he hopes that the audience members will find a thematic relation to their real lives.
“Appointment” will also be held in Gammage as an experimental performance. As one of the largest university-based theaters in the country, Gammage will be providing a venue for what Schaier calls “groundbreaking” work, on a much smaller scale than the theater usually performs.
“It’s such a different spectrum from Gammage,” Schaier said.
Landsman has performed in shows that break the traditional view of theater before, including “Gatz,” an eight-hour performance where actors read the entire “The Great Gatsby” novel on stage. He has also performed in shows that took place in people’s homes, where audience members purchased a ticket, received an address to someone’s house then traveled to someone’s house for the show.
He said that if theater is performed where people live, “it makes them feel welcome.”
His first performance with Gammage, titled “City Council Meeting,” included audience members and performers and showed the imperfections of democracy and theater.
“I want to mix up what we think of theater,” Landsman said.
Michael Reed, senior director of programs and organizational initiatives at Gammage, met Landsman while the artist was performing with Elevator Repair Service Theater in New York. Reed said that the resident artist Gammage chooses is always a “truly exceptional artist,” and Landsman fits the bill.
“He’s always thinking about ways theater has different impact on people’s lives,” Reed said.
As a resident artist, Landsman is involved in workshops, lectures, classes and performances through Gammage. He will also run workshops at valley high schools that demonstrate methods of playwriting and finding one’s voice.
Reed said he feels that the resident artist program helps with the Gammage mission of connecting communities. He also said that audience members will not just sit and watch a performer with whom they are unfamiliar.
“After watching his workshops and lectures, they will sit there and say, ‘I got to spend some time with this artist. I know this artist,’” Reed said.
Anyone can purchase tickets for the performance for both the Gammage and the Cronkite location. Performances will be held multiple times April 11 and 12.
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