Spotlight November 2015

<![CDATA[Spotlight November 2015: Dive Into Interactive Theater & Sightlines with James A. Williams!]]> Spotlight November 2015: Dive Into Interactive Theater & Sightlines with James A. Williams!
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November 2015
A Note from Wu Chen

“Great art has dreadful manners.”

So begins the introduction to Simon Schama’s book companion to his TV series Power of Art (also this month’s Recommends). “Merciless and wily, the greatest paintings grab you in a headlock, rough up your composure and then proceed in short order to rearrange your sense of reality.”

This is just as applicable to the audience experience of a piece of performance art as it is to visual art. But although the experience of an audience is a shared, communal, and dynamic one, for each person it is also a subjective, personal, and individual. People aren’t all moved by the same things, don’t all have the same truths. And thus is born a wide variety of art, both in form and in intent, as we attempt to invoke the power of art to immerse and evoke; soothe and calm; perturb and disturb; arouse and awaken; to get under your skin.

In the relationship with the audience, a work speaks for itself: norms have no objective merit so all manner of folks can experience and participate in it, along with others both eerily familiar and utterly alien to themselves.

Speaking of participating, this month Sound Designer Katharine Horowitz begins a grand journey into what is sometimes called “interactive theater”. This will be a four-part series, so stay tuned as Horowitz turns her sharp mind toward exploring this daring style that’s seeing a great rise among companies of all types.

Local theatre legend James Williams joins us for Sightlines this month. He muses on a storied career, while challenging our sense of how our industry has affected our communities, what we are trying to achieve, and how we are going about it. As he has always done, Williams challenges us and drives us forward.

As our two contributors indicate, the future looks exciting and challenging; terrifying and bright. Don’t let a misplaced sense of tradition and rectitude hold us back.



-Wu Chen Khoo
co-founder and Operations Director
Technical Tools of the Trade

Sightlines: Reflections On a Life in Twin Cities Theater

An Article by James A. Williams

Nearly 40 years ago I stepped on a stage on the West Bank of Minneapolis – The Firehouse – to be exact in Mixed Blood’s production of Horace Bond’s Mother April’s - beginning a journey that went from a vocation to a career.

Looking back at that inauspicious beginning, I think of the companies that came, thrived for a time, and then disappeared; of those that have managed to hang on despite the economic swings and turbulent financial times that rocked the funding world; of the legacy amendment and other changes in the theater landscape that I have not been privy to. One of the largest changes that I’ve seen is the idea that artists of color now come to the Twin Cities seeking employment opportunities.  This fact amazes me because in 1976, when I walked on that stage the idea of making a living doing this seemed as improbable an idea as a black man becoming President of the United States of America... 

Read the full article HERE!

Tech Tools Calendar of Events

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In Focus: Interactive Theatre - Part 1, The Director



Series by Katharine Horowitz

Audience immersion and interactivity have always been the mainstays of haunted houses and historical reenactment sites, but the genre seems to be experiencing a recent eruption of popularity in the United States with such productions as Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, or Third Rail Project’s Then She Fell, both in New York City. The last few years have also seen an increase in some impressive interactive theatre productions in the Twin Cities, but is there a lasting future for it here? And what challenges do companies encounter when building the kind of designs and stories needed to create a successful interactive experience?

Our inaugural exploration into creating interactive theatre in the Twin Cities begins with interviews of a few of local directors and producers of recent interactive and/or immersive productions. We chatted Matthew Glover and Ryan Hill of Sandbox Theatre’s This Is A World To Live In (TIAWTLI), Ryan Underbakke of CTC’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and Joanna Harmon of Live Action Set’s Crime and Punishment about their perceptions of the genre and its future in Twin Cities theatre.


Read Part 1 of the Series HERE!

Wu Chen Recommends...

I first watched historian Simon Schama’s Power of Art in 2008 with my father. I thought it a bit overdone, but liked it enough to buy it and share it with a few people. I recently watched it again, this time also reading the accompanying book, and was struck with just how good and how compelling it is.

Simon Schama’s politics and mine are often sharply at odds, but that is irrelevant as regards this series’ brilliance. Presented as a tour of eight famous artists - yes, all from the West - and their fascinating stories, I think it is first and foremost an intelligent, accessible and engaging argument for the central and powerful importance of art in our lives.

Whether considering monuments of power, designed to uphold and magnify the status quo or as daring acts of revolution, conceived to jolt us and make us rethink our world, this series itself grapples with the same thing that great art does: our humanity; our societies; our perceptions; ourselves.

No matter your relationship to art, you owe it to yourself to watch this series.

On Netflix:
From the Hennepin County Library (the book):


Sound Designer Katharine Horowitz leads students through the skills needed for sound editing and show control. Don't miss her series on Interactive Theater - Part 1 THIS Month!
Photo Credit: Megan Engeseth Photography
Photos used in this publication are copyrighted to Farrington Starnes and used with permission. Photos used in this publication are copyrighted to Megan Engeseth Photography and used with permission.
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