One of the new works I created for The Whole Shebang was a travelling soundscape that was played through cellphones placed inside a birdcage and 2 fishbowls to surprise audiences while they walked through the theatre. (Imagine it: you’re walking through what you think is a regular ol’ lobby or stairwell and out of nowhere you hear a stranger’s voice begin cooing like a pigeon, mincing like a mouse, or mooing like a cow.)During the show, the audience was moved to the balconies that wrap all the way around the stage, so they could watch a few works from a bird’s eye view – peering over the balconies down at the dancers and the video projection on the floor. The travelling soundscape was carried in the bird cage and 2 fishbowls by volunteers in charge of leading audience members through the theatre to get to the uppermost balconies. I created this piece to insert a sense of enchanted wonder into the spaces that the audiences had to walk through to get upstairs. The lobby and stairwells have an unforgiving institutional feel about them, so I wanted to connect those interstitial spaces with the magic in the mainspace. I also needed to do it in a really simple way because there was no way we could dress those transitory spaces within budget, or in compliance with fire code regulations and general building rules about not being able to put things on walls etc.
Was it successful? Were you there? What did you think? To hear how one audience member responded, read the anecdote that follows below.If you weren’t there, what do you think you would have expected if you had read this in the program book?:
The Far Side of the RoomAs the evening continues you will encounter a travelling soundscape of animal sounds made by artists, friends and innocent bystanders. The travelling soundscape is complemented by two musicians from the UTS Music Ensemble, and a live mix of music, evening sounds, and ever more animals by Tom Kuo. An aural blend to accompany you on the great journey to the other side.
At most, only about a third of the audiences got a chance to encounter the travelling soundscape, as not everyone was led to the 3rd floor balconies. So I was really glad to hear that my friend’s mother had actually asked my friend about the soundscape, and she had completely responded the way I’d hoped people would: She went up to my friend after the show and asked about the mysterious animal sounds that she had heard in the theatre. “It sounded like a dog, and then a bird…I could tell they were coming from the cage, but I couldn’t see how…” Incidentally, her daughter (my friend) had actually lent me her phone to do the installation so she called the track up on her phone and showed her mom how it worked. After which, her mom actually said, “That was my favourite part of the show.”