Times Square isn’t the most likely place for an experimental theater production of a Chinese literary classic, but in the basement of the legendary Brill Building, Dream of the Red Chamber, a performance for a sleeping audience tries something different. This adaptation of Cao Xueqin’s (曹雪芹) epic Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦 / 紅樓夢) by director and co-writer Jim Findlay and co-writer Jeff Jackson eschews the traditional performer-audience relationship. Findlay says, “I’m interested in what can happen when we get free from the idea that art is dependent on the transaction of the audience ‘paying’ attention. What if you don’t pay? What if I don’t ask? How little can we both do and still have something worthwhile happen?”
With forty beds provided as “seating” and lighting, video projections, and sound designed to evoke a reverie, this “literal dream play” immerses you in the blurred reality of the story and wants you to fall asleep, not out of boredom but as part of the experience. Encouraging and facilitating shifting between conscious and unconscious states, the performance mimics the reality vs. dream dichotomy of the source material.
Audience members are free to arrive, depart, and return at anytime to the nightly performances that include one remaining overnight performance. While there is no wrong way to experience this metaplay, Findlay recommends that you not pay attention as you would to a traditional performance. He tells the Huffington Post:
“The piece is a lot about creating a situation where the audience gets to think about how they experience art because they’re being asked to experience it in a way that’s so different than what they’re used to.
I always fantasize that someone could come into the piece, be there for five minutes, absolutely get it and love it, evanesce in a Buddhist-type way into a higher consciousness and disappear from the planet. Or they might spend 12 hours and get really frustrated, but still get something out of it.”
|Fri May 9||5p-12m||1st Dream||A Life Misspent|
|Tue May 13||5p-12m||2nd Dream||Vain Longing|
|Wed May 14||5p-12m||3rd Dream||Separation from Dear Ones|
|Thu May 15||5p-12m||4th Dream||Spurned by the World|
|Fri May 16||5p-12m||5th Dream||Union of Enemies|
SPECIAL OVERNIGHT PERFORMANCES
|Sat May 10||5p-6a||DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER|
|Sat May 17||5p-6a||DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER|
Follow @TSqArts or call 917-797-5664 for any potential wait times.
May 9 – 17, 2014
Brill Building, 1619 Broadway; enter at storefront entrance at 1623 Broadway
Image: Screen capture from “Dream of the Red Chamber: a performance for a sleeping audience” Excerpt from Mt Tremper Arts residency