Portable performance space entertains in New York’s Times Square
For theater-lovers, here’s a way to get a small serving of artistic performances – portable theater at one of the world’s most visible stages, Times Square in New York City.
Broadway set designer Christine Jones, in collaboration with Lot-ek Architects, designed ‘Theatre for One, a 4 ft by 9 ft portable theater with one performer playing to one audience member’. This intimate theatrical experience is available to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis between 14 May and 23 May in Times Square.
Theatre for One may be very small, but it is fully operational with computer-controlled lights and sound, stage and audience doors and solid sliding 'curtain' in a proscenium that signals the start and end of the performances. A stage manager runs the show while a house manager guides the guests into the red velvet interior, which includes an actual peep booth seat.
Those peep show booths of Times Square’s somewhat more shady past inspired Jones to develop this new type of theatrical space to build a stronger relationship between audience and performer that she said is being lost in the new digital Times Square.
New York-based Lot-ek Architects, which has incorporated shipping containers in other projects, designed the pebbled black walls and steel edged construction of the theatrical road-show boxes to configure a system where connected and detachable units form the theater’s black box. Two half-boxes comprise the spaces for the performer and audience.
The audience sitting area reflects the feel of baroque theaters and opera houses and is lined with padded, red velvet and has a peep-booth chair with stereo speakers and pay buttons.
The space for the performer is left unfinished to accommodate the performance of the day. The background has a flexible plug-in system where different sets can be exchanged depending on the performance requirements. A small plug-in box at the top holds lights and special effects, including rain and snow.
The theater was built for a workshop at Princeton University in 2007. Lot-ek, founded by Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Ligano in 1993, has also created exhibitions and site-specific installations for the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim.
Artists from different disciplines, including theater, dance, poetry, magic, and music, will create and perform five-to-10 minute pieces that will be presented in rotation for six hours a day, during the 10-day run in Times Square. Each day will be devoted to a specific medium, such as dance, plays, magic and more.
It’s possible that Theatre for One may become a road show. Jones said there are plans to try and move the production to Ohio Theater's lobby in SoHo in June with Clubbed Thumb theater company.
“We take it one person, and one project, at a time,” said Jones, who has designed sets for the Tony Award-nominated ‘American Idiot’ punk rock opera by Green Day, and ‘Spring Awakening’ among other credits. She also teaches at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
The featured performers and writers at Theatre for One are: magician and actor Steve Cuiffo, playwright Courtney Baron, toy piano musician Phyllis Chen, and actors Dallas Roberts and Frank Wood.
Theatre for One is presented by the Times Square Alliance Public Art Program.