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Theatre Major Goes down the Rabbit Hole

By Brittney Corrigan-McElroy ’94 on February 18, 2015 05:09 PM

Thesis production "Here, Now" by Marisa Kanai ’15 is an interactive performance with an "audience" of two. Here the enigmatic Rabbit offers tea to a member of the audience. Fiona Wiedermann

I’m standing in the middle of an old-fashioned living room, surrounded by empty suitcases, tea cups, overflowing bookshelves, and a Twister mat, attempting to communicate with a dapper rabbit brandishing a tennis racket.

This could only happen at Reed—to be precise, onstage at Here, Now, a remarkable thesis production by theatre major Marisa Kanai ’15, which is performed for only two audience members at a time.

Marisa is working with her faculty adviser, Prof. Peter Ksander [theatre 2011–], to explore immersive environments and interactivity in performance, inviting the audience to engage in an intimate relationship with the actors, the space, and the content of the event itself.

As audience “guests,” we begin by donning earpieces and receiving instructions to search for a hidden key in order to reach a party. With the use of interactive technology, and on camera the entire time, we are entertained by the Rabbit (voiced through the earpieces by Laurent Drui ’16 and performed by Hannah MacKenzie-Margulies ’16), who alternately helps and distracts us as we look for the key. Lifting a telephone receiver or blowing on a whistle may cause the lights to go out or the room to buzz. We find clues among children’s blocks or stuffed into the lining of a chair. We don’t feel like we’re at a play; we feel like we’re playing—exploring and being guided on a surreal adventure.

Upon finding the key and the hidden door it fits, we emerge into a room where we are showered with balloons—we made it to the party! Elated, we dance together with the Rabbit as the technoswing music begins to play.

Staged in the Black Box Theatre in the Performing Arts Building, Here, Now creates an intimate experience for the audience, giving them agency and a sense of choosing their own adventure—an approach that makes each singular “performance” curiouser and curiouser.