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Ghosts in Motion

BY VICTORIA VAUGHN | JULY 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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In 2011, New York City welcomed one of the most unsettling theater performances in years, Sleep No More. The production, based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, emphasized an interactive experience among the audience, actors, and set.

This is commonly known as breaking the fourth wall, and it became a defining feature of the show. Sleep No More allowed the audience to touch, explore, and be a part of the story line. A similar experience has now come to Iowa City.

Ghost Story will open Friday at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St. The In the Raw production, developed by playwrights Jennifer Fawcett and Sean Lewis of Working Group Theater, will have two showings, 7 and 9 p.m.

Just as with Sleep No More, Ghost Story will break the fourth wall. However, the story line is completely fresh.

The play follows a young man working in a box office at a local theater. His sister also works at the theater as an actress, and one night she doesn’t come for a show. A year passes before her murdered body is found. The audience then follows this young man’s journey through grief — picking up clues along the way.

“It’s a play that takes place in every part of the theater except the performance space itself,” said Lewis, the Working Group artistic director.

The idea behind Ghost Story took several months of collaboration. Faucett and Lewis decided they wanted to see what it would be like to create a work of theater completely from scratch — from writing the show to its post-production. For some, the task of co-creating a show would prove to be difficult. Fortunately for Fawcett and Lewis, 10 years of working together gave them an advantage.

“It made it a lot easier to do a new project with fewer people involved,” Lewis said.

Lewis and Fawcett began writing the play while in San Francisco. It went through several drafts and edits while they were trying to coordinate sound design and lighting. They decided that the show would end with a monologue that explained the different clues of the young actress’ disappearance.
With a shared vision, Fawcett’s and Lewis’ dream became a reality. After Lewis fine-tuned the monologue that closes the show, they knew they had something mobile and unique. They finally had the show that would feature everything audiences don’t normally see — dressing rooms, basements, nooks, and crannies.

Then, they needed to test it.

They ran a trial of Ghost Story in Berkeley, California — an appropriate choice, because they created the show in California. The audience was allowed to touch any part of the set, collect clues, and ask questions. However, those in attendance were put into groups of people they did not know previously — a risky move when it comes to premièring a new show.

“We found an amazing group of camaraderie,” Fawcett said. The group experience proved to be a wonderful part of the show, she said, even if it was slightly scary.

Because Ghost Story was such a success, Fawcett and Lewis decided to bring it to Iowa City. This week’s performance will mark the second theater it has appeared in. They are excited to see how the community will respond to the concept of Ghost Story, especially because the Iowa City community is diverse and many people who walk into the Englert may not know each other.

For more information about the show, log on to Englert’s main website. There are 30 tickets available per show and cost $10 each.


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