Immersive theater removes the stage and puts the audience within the performance itself. And this year, Franklin County’s Eggtooth Productions offered up an immersive experience perfect for the spooky season.
Theatergoers can experience a strange and mysterious immersive story on and behind the stage at the Shea Theater in a production dubbed ‘Deus Ex Machina.’
Producer Dave Fraser was there as the production uncovered some of the ghosts of the past at the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls.
Read the full transcript:
Tony Dunne, Connecting Point: Immersive theater removes the stage and puts the audience within the performance itself.
Franklin County’s Eggtooth Productions recently offered theatergoers a strange and mysterious immersive story, just perfect for this time of year, as producer Dave Fraser discovered when he experienced their production of “Deus Ex Machina,” which uncovered some of the ghosts of the past at the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls.
Performer 1: Powerful, right? A ritual. Magic. The Possibility of Magic. This is the theater.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: Described as a love letter to the Shea, Eggtooth Productions kicked off its fall season with a re-mounting of the 2017 immersive theater production “Deus Ex Machina.”
Audience members were given a chance to pull back the curtain and get a glimpse into the colorful history of the theater that opened in 1927.
John Bechtold, Deus Ex Machina Director: The theater is a very storied space, and we wanted to kind of call the ghosts out of the building. I think a few of our actual characters are based quite literally on people’s senses or ghost stories from times past, but then also just the layers of history, just want us to call us back into these eras. And if we can put someone in the middle of all that, rather than outside of it, it can be a really cool show.
Performer 2: People with no talent and lots of pretensions. All they know how to do is attack people with real talent.
Performer 3: Real talent?
Dave Fraser: As an immersive experience, the theater’s 330 seats remained empty during the performance. Rather, the show begins at the back door as audience members are broken into small groups and take part in the show through movement.
Linda McInerney, Eggtooth Productions: It’s kind of an amazing experience for audience members to see all the secret passageways and all the ways the theatrical magic is made. Like, you get to go backstage, you get to go under the stage. It’s just a very experiential way to enjoy art.
Performer 4: So, you cling to the things they sold you.
Dave Fraser: With an intimate 1-to-1 cast to audience ratio, and the entire Shea Theater as their set, participants experience a series of sublime engagements with an array of characters inspired by the building’s storied history as a 1920s vaudeville house to a 70s hippie commune and to the theater and community space that it is today.
Atticus Belmonte, Actor: There are only 18 people per show, so there are actually more cast members than audience members, which makes it easy for us to have some one-on-one experiences with them.
And it’s a very intimate and personal theatrical experience
K. Adler, Actor: In this play, I am specifically the Earth Ghosts, although there are many ghosts that are activated during this time.
So, I, in this show, have my face covered. So, rather than an individual character, I’m really embodying the fabric and a spirit that is kind of emanating from the walls of this building.
Tara Boland, Actor: I’m the clown, which basically means I’m the comic relief, so I’m kind of an agent of chaos. If you think of Harpo Marx, that is who I base myself on a lot of the time.
Dave Fraser: At the conclusion of the show, cast members greet the audience in the lobby to share the experience of their night.
Jen Cannella, South Hadley, MA: I didn’t know what to expect. I’ll say that this was our first time coming to an immersive theater performance. And we were maybe a little bit intimidated, but it was such a delight.
Christine Stevens, Hadley, MA: I thought the sights, the sounds, the music, the movement was just beautiful and haunting and funny. They just sort of captured the Shea and gave it to us. It was beautiful.
Dave Fraser: After the coronavirus forced many theaters to go dark and arts groups to disband, producers and directors are finally gearing up to welcome live audiences back to the stage.
John Bechtold: There’s this middle space of communities full of wonderful, talented people that want to make work that are in and around their communities, but also come in with a level of skill and training that really befit what we could bring.
So, it’s very important and I think it’s also one of the last big, live forums for people to meet each other in this post-pandemic and very digital time.
Linda McInerney: So, we’ve been through a lot in the last few years, and our performers and our creators have had no opportunities to create. Really, the bottom has dropped out of the theater and art in general and certainly performances in general.
And so, to come back is great.