By Marcina Zaccaria
Can we connect through the US Post Office? It’s possible, and even, theatrical.
Artistic Directors Shelley Butler (A Doll’s House Part Two) and West Hyler (Cirque Du Soleil Paramour, Big Apple Circus) have created an innovative type of performance to propel the imagination, replacing live theater options in New York City. It’s a four-month experience involving thirty actors, six playwrights, and a props designer. Artistic Stamp reunited with actors with whom they have worked in the past, who auditioned by showing their own handwriting.
Create a story, respond to a letter, and continue on. Actress Alexis Tidwell (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical National Tour), said she is glad to have the chance to portray Civil Rights Activist Ida B Wells, particularly because she, herself, is from Memphis, the City where a fight for equality was staged after the Civil War. Working with the Playwright November Christine, Alexis Tidwell said she is excited about the audience’s participation to move the story forward, with their own involvement.
Brooke Wetterhahn had just begun her National Tour of Fiddler on the Roof, when the COVID-19 crisis stopped production. She moved to Los Angeles where she had been choosing to focus on her voice-over career, before agreeing to work with Artistic Stamp. In The Constellation Melody, by Ben Bonnema, Brooke will be acting in a story that takes place over three centuries, and includes a gay church organist, an ethnomusicologist, and a YouTuber musician.
Brooke remembers the interruption of the Fiddler on the Roof tour to be a type of “whirlwind traumatic experience”. Like a darker spot in the larger journey of continuing a career in the theater, Brooke said that Artistic Stamp reminded her that the “theater community is still alive and doing its best to create art that is interesting and innovative.” She described the anticipation and excitement that participants might feel when they receive a letter. It creates an immersive experience in their own living room, and an opportunity to connect without a camera or a Zoom feed.
In fact, all the stories depend on that involvement. Chris Thorn (Pride and Prejudice at Primary Stages, Bernhardt/Hamlet at the Roundabout) explained, “We will be involved in it using handwriting. We will interact with all the material … The letters will be mailed by us. I’ll be in my home, and the materials will be handled by me. It’s very tactile and sensory … ”
Story and character drive the action, and the plot might move in many directions. About Fall in Love in 4 Months by Jahn Sood, Chris Thorn explained, “These playwrights have given themselves to the challenge writing these scripts that can be interacted with, in the way that a narrative arc takes place over seven letters, so that the audience is offered the opportunity to reply to the letters. That’s the space where the improvisation comes in.”
Thorn further explained, “Theater is one of the great places, where we hear language spoken, out loud.” He continued, “In terms of an audience, people who are drawn to the theater will be drawn to this, because there is interesting or exciting, unique language.”
The first letter will be mailed on September 21, and tickets are on sale at www.artisticstamp.com. The four-month experience is $100.00, paid upfront or in four monthly installments.