Bricolage Production Company strives to the very edge of theater, even producing theatrical experiences where the audience members are blindfolded and led across town. In fact that production, Ojo, which debuted as part of the 2014 Three Rivers Arts Festival, just finished a run in San Diego at the La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival. The talk of the festival, Bricolage may even remount Ojo in yet another location, furthering their creativity and innovation and broadening the national conversation about contemporary theater.
Bricolage’s brand of adventurous theater often extends to the company’s marketing and PR efforts, sometimes mirroring the shows themselves. This type of marketing is about taking risks, but how scary is that, when we need to get butts in the seats?? We’re dealing with a scarcity of arts audiences in the U.S. right now, with the NEA reporting 2/3 of Americans never participating or attending ANY arts events. What does this mean for the risk-takers? An opportunity, or a threat?
Bricolage’s PR Director Emily Willson’s take: “I feel like a great way to get the message out about an event or show is to give audiences little taste of it, to experience similar emotions to what you might feel during the show, itself.” Currently in the middle of mounting George Orwell’s 1984 in Bricolage’s signature Midnight Radio format, the dystopian story was recently mirrored by a form of um, dystopian marketing – if there wasn’t such a thing before, there is, now!
If taking to the streets with immersive theater is where it’s at, then why not do the same with promotions? Far more interesting than a static postcard or poster, immersive PR sounds fun, but can also present challenges - far less control with the audience, for one.
“We specifically picked the Pirates’ playoff game because we knew there would be a huge number of people crossing the bridge, like a captive audience, and we staged a demonstration, handing out the manifesto of ‘The Party,’ the oppressive government entity described in Orwell’s novel.”
Continues Willson, “We were out in the streets, staging a mock demonstration with actors to draw attention to the show, not knowing if we’d be arrested or if we’d encounter angry or overly curious people. We had a run in with one of the vendors on the Roberto Clemente Bridge during the ballgame. He didn’t understand what we were doing with the mock demonstration – he thought we were selling something and trying to take away his customers. With this kind of marketing, we have to be prepared for anything.”
Parag S. Gohel, actor and the creator of the demonstration, agrees, “One of the most successful aspects of this guerrilla marketing campaign was the collaborative process involved in both creating it and experiencing it: the actors had to work together, using cues to fabricate the presence of Big Brother and the passersby in downtown also had to work together using cues to decipher what was actually happening.
“At the surface for anyone who saw us, we might have looked like another group of extreme activists taking the streets to impose our beliefs, but when someone read our leaflet containing terms and quotes from Orwell's 1984, or conferred with those around them, or physically went to the window of 937 Liberty Ave (Bricolage) - as we instructed - they put the pieces together, which created more of a buzz than simply handing out information about the show itself.”
During the “demonstration,” actors encouraged passersby to “See the future, go to the window!” meaning to visit Bricolage’s living art installation in the window at 937 Liberty Avenue. This art installation by R.B. Scott features a live person during the day and disturbing, “eyeballed worker” at night. Working tireless away under the watch of Big Brother, the installation shows viewers the future, as imagined by Orwell’s classic novel.
Demonstrations and installations – two tactics Bricolage brings that reminds us that perhaps art is the lens through which to get people into yet more art.
1984 opens Thursday, October 29th and runs through November 14, 2015 at Bricolage Production Company, 937 Liberty Avenue. For more information, visit www.bricolagepgh.org.
Performers in the demonstration: Parag S. Gohel, Tonya Lynn, Joseph Martinez, Connor McCanlus, Mary C. Parker, Jen Schaupp, Jennifer Tober, Sarah Wojdylak