This project was funded by the ReDesigning Theater Seed Grant
The creators of Titus combined a modern poetic reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus with a “choose your own adventure” format that allowed the audience to choose a character to follow throughout the story. It was staged at Stanford’s Lake Lagunita, and audience members followed a guide who lead them through the story line of one character. Each night had one show before sunset and one after sunset, where audience members carried flashlights to guide their journeys. Many audience members stayed for two shows in a row or came back multiple nights to experience different story lines.
From the Producer:
It was a performance of a modern poetic reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. The play was set on Stanford’s Lake Lagunita where characters traveled around the lake to different locations to perform different scenes. This meant several scenes happened simultaneously and audience members were asked to choose whom to follow. The show was performed once before the sunset and once after the sunset. In the second performance, audience members were given flashlights in order to decide on the lighting for their own scenes. Each character (or in some case a pair) had a “guide”. The guides were brought in the final weeks of rehearsal and worked with the actors on audience flow and the addition of things like a boom box carried by the guide. The project began with this “choose-your-own” path concept in mind and quickly evolved into unique performances crafted by individual actors and eventually their guides. Who would you follow?
The goal of the project was to explore democratic design of theater, specifically through our informal theater group, The Freeks. Since the mission statement of the Freeks is not only to provide absolutely free theater to the public but also provide a group that will back any other free performance on campus, this performance was an experiment of this concept on a large scale. Not only did we involve several actors who had never taken the stage before; our production group included dancers, the Sea People (a student band), computer science majors as advisors for set, members of skit comedy, members of the Drama Department, and students from fraternities, dormitories and cooperatives. We hoped this intense cross section would lead to a unique vision for both audience and performer. We did not want a vision that was given to the cast but rather a vision that is slowly unified via the process and the group of performers.
I think that we showed that a diverse group of people with only the common goal of creating something in common can create a successful and engaging performance. As a performer in the show, I felt as though every choice I made was heard by the rest of the cast and validated within my own performance. For example, while we originally visualized Chiron (the character I played) as a vicious sociopath it became clear that this could not be the way Chiron is. Working with Jake, our Demetrius, we found a sick and twisted fraternal relationship that explained the violence and anger of Chiron. These little adjustments happened with all the characters and often lead to heated discussion and debate amongst cast members.
On this note here is a quote from Laura Petree, one of the founding members and director of Cowboy Mouth and co-direcor of Titus
“I think we were really excited about was getting people who generally have no interest in theater, because they dislike it or just because they are apathetic, interested and excited in our project (both in cast/crew and audience members). Audience members weren’t just friends of the cast (which is a typical Stanford thing) but people that wanted to see a show and experience an event. ”
The feedback we received from audience members, to me, was the most important piece of the entire project. One member for example after finishing the day show remarked to one of the guides that while they had had plans to go out that night they needed to stay for the second showing and to follow someone else around. They said they needed to know what actually happened.
Discussions between audience members after the show often sounded like “What did you see? What did you hear? Do you know why this character did this or that?”. It seemed as if audience members were actually interested in the world of the play rather than the production surrounding it. Aside from this we also we received a lot of mysterious buzz about what the Freeks are, a question we hope is really transforming into what theater is. We want audience members and performers to be focused on what they are doing rather than what someone did 2000 years ago or what someone could do now that would be considered “futuristic”. We are grounded in the present and were delighted to see audience members doing the same.
In the future we hope Titus has served as an exemplar of a Freeks performance, concerned totally with the world created by the process and democratically open to all participants. We hope to remain undefined as a helpful and free force on campus that serves as a rallying cry for those concerned with free performance about the present.
Also here is Laura’s feedback on my feedback
“It’s not that long winded either. I think you did a good job at being concise. I feel like I probably would have had to write a thesis to explain all of what we did and what it meant.”
Interested in seeing some of Titus? Clips will be added soon.
Theater Seed Project: Tyler Fitzgerald