While social distancing, masks, and frequent sanitizing continue to be necessary safety precautions to combat the spread of COVID-19, some experimental Off-Off-Broadway theater companies are offering intimate interactive and immersive experiences for extremely limited groups or single audience members at a time, in participatory events that adhere strictly to pandemic protocol.
Garden of Eden – “Around each corner lies enlightenment. Each dead end is a new beginning.” Now through Saturday, October 10, Nancy Manocherian’s the cell theatre, in association with Dark Matter Immersive, presents a unique individual experience in an indoor labyrinth “garden” inspired by traditional Tarot symbols, New Orleans, and backwoods wanderings. Designed and created by Dark Matter co-founders Ereka Duncan and Jaclyn Atkinson, the multimedia exploration invites audiences to embrace the unknown, to contemplate the unconscious realm, to connect with their inner selves, and to unlock the eponymous “sacred home to the First Children of Earth” through reflective questions, introspection, meditation, and movement. The Garden of Eden journey includes a virtual tarot reading from Melissa Madara and an ambient soundscape composed and engineered by Ricardo Romaneiro.
Private time slots, lasting approximately 50 minutes, are available by appointment only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 6, 7, 8, and 9 pm, at the cell theatre – 338 W. 23rd Street, 2nd floor, NYC. Audiences may enter the Garden of Eden by themselves, or bring one guest for an additional charge. Each participant will be required to wear a face mask throughout the experience; hand sanitizer is available and touched surfaces will be disinfected between patrons. For tickets, available on a sliding scale, go online.
Static Apnea – The term static apnea refers to the act of holding one’s breath underwater while remaining motionless; the theme of an individual’s breath being denied, by a virus, a knee, uncertainty and anxiety, is a timely one in our present era. Following its 2017 world premiere at the Performance Arcade in New Zealand, the american vicarious, in collaboration with The Invisible Dog Art Center, presents the New York debut of Static Apnea (2020) – a socially distanced performance installation that poses three resonant questions: How long can you hold your breath? Would it be long enough to save yourself? Would it be long enough to save someone you love?
Conceived and directed by the american vicarious Founding Artistic Director Christopher McElroen, with additional text by Julia Watt, installation design by Troy Hourie, lighting by Zach Weeks, and sound by Andy Evan Cohen, the immersive piece is performed alternately by Isabella Pinheiro (Thursday-Friday) and Jenny Tibbels (Saturday-Sunday), in a 40-foot storage container, open at both ends, with high powered fans and air purifiers to ensure proper air flow. In a nine-minute-and-two-second experience – the female record for static apnea – one audience member, surrounded by a tunnel of blue light, descends towards the lone woman behind a clear Plexiglas wall, in an exploration of how far you might be willing to go to save a life.
Static Apnea plays September 12-October 17 at The Invisible Dog Art Center – 51 Bergen Street, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Doors open at noon and performances begin every 20 minutes. Each performance is limited to one audience member; walk-ups will be accommodated if time slots are available. Temperatures will be taken on arrival and audience members are required to wear a face mask. For more information and to RSVP for free tickets, go online.
Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec – When the coronavirus forced the temporary closure of Unmaking Toulouse-Lautrec after 100 performances at Madame X, Bated Breath Theatre Company reimagined its site-specific hit for our present situation. The new format, conceived and directed by Executive Artistic Director Mara Lieberman, is a theatrical open-air pandemic-friendly walking tour through the sidewalks, doorways, windows, and iconic locations of Greenwich Village, including Judson Memorial Church, The Duplex, Chashama, and other secret non-traditional performance spaces (mostly outdoors, with one short indoor stop in a spacious ambiance that allows for safe social distancing).
Evoking the absinthe-induced dreams of the titular French Post-Impressionist artist, living and painting in the underbelly of 19th-century Montmartre, the immersive experience – featuring puppet design and construction by James Ortiz, set design by Sadra Tehrani, lighting by Ebony Burton, sound by Mark Van Hare, music direction by Dmitiriy and Masha Umanskiy, and choreography by Kelsey Rondeau and Leila Mire – will transport small groups of six-person audiences into the provocative, decadent, bohemian world of 1899 Paris, where they become the voyeurs.
The event plays September 30-November 7, Wednesday-Saturday, 6-9 pm, rain or shine (except in cases of extreme weather), with audiences departing every 20 minutes from outside The Duplex – 61 Christopher Street, NYC. Running time is approximately one hour. Audience members must be able to climb stairs and to be on their feet for the duration of the performance, and will be required to wear a mask at all times, maintain a safe social distance for the duration of the performance, and use the hand-sanitizing stations available at stops throughout the tour. Go online for additional information and to purchase tickets, priced at $75 for General Admission or $84 with a themed pre-show cocktail. A flexible ticket exchange policy will be offered to those who may feel ill, in order to facilitate responsible event participation.