The Photo Album, an interactive theater piece set in a fictionalized version of one of Ditmas Park’s elegant, filet-of-the-neighborhood Victorian homes, has three performances coming up this month at Williamsburg’s The Brick. Conceived and directed by neighbor Lisa Reinke and executed with her company The Story Gym, The Photo Album allows its audience to step out of their seats and into the role of detective.
It’s part of The Brick’s Game Play Festival, which features “works that lie at the intersection of video gaming and performance.” In her case, Lisa isn’t so much looking at the intersection between the two so much as she’s turned the performance into a kind of video game–one that’s even good for your health. She took a moment to tell us a bit about where the concept came from, and how it works.
The idea behind this show is that in remodeling a Ditmas Park Victorian house, a bunch of photos from past residents were found. Audience members must try to figure out the history of the house and the people who lived in it. To do so, they must download Layar on their Android or iOS device, and then scan the photos using that app.
This will cause several clues to pop up in augmented reality that will lead individual audience members on short scavenger hunts to find actors and release brief moments and memories trapped in the photos. People who don’t have smartphones can join up with friends or ask stagehands to scan photos for them.
I decided to create this show because I want theatre to offer people an experience they can’t get by just sitting in front of their computer or on their couch. I spend way too much time each day sitting. It’s hurting my health. A study administered by the New York State Department of Health in 2011 found that “Nearly one-quarter (24.5%) of adults in New York State are obese and another 36% are overweight . . .”
Audiences don’t have to be trapped in the dark, in the middle of a row of chairs, waiting to be released to go to the bathroom. Theatre can give people a reason to get off their butts. Storytelling can be a mobile affair. I’m not talking anything extreme. You won’t be breaking a sweat in my show and you can certainly sit down whenever you need. But, you’re not forced to sit still. I want people to be allowed to move.
Is there a particular house in the neighborhood in which you envision the show taking place?
It’s not about a specific Victorian home in the neighborhood; rather, it represents the many iterations that homes around here have gone through–large families, small families, renters, and squatters. I find this neighborhood a rich source of inspiration because it has gone through so many waves of people, and it is somehow still recognizable from a hundred years ago.
Do any other aspects or features of the neighborhood make it into the show?
At the top of the show, Ditmas Park resident Alden LaPaglia tells people about the neighborhood so that people who have never been here get an idea about the homes, the people, and the history. Then, depending on what photos you scan, you might hear more about the Victorians, Caton Avenue, or even Shenanigans Pub.
Is The Photo Album indicative of the rest of your work? Are you interested in traditionally structured plays at all?
I’m trying to move away from the traditional theatre model because I want people to start associating movement with storytelling. The last short play I directed, Religion for Audiophiles by Jack Karp, also gives audience members a chance to get out of their seats. That being said, the story should dictate the medium.
Anything else you’re working on–through The Story Gym or independently–that we can look forward to after this?
I have a workshop production of Dear Brooklyn College going up on July 10 at 11:30 pm in Brooklyn College’s Tanger Auditorium. With the help of the archival department in the Brooklyn College Library, we’ve created a show about life at Brooklyn College during WWII based on the letters, newspaper clippings, and yearbooks from that period.
Performances of The Photo Album are:
- Wednesday, July 10, at 7pm
- Tuesday, July 16, at 8pm
- Friday, July 26, at 7pm
The Brick is at 579 Metropolitan Ave. on the corner of Lorimer St. Tickets are available here. Don’t forget your smartphone!