The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
By D.B. Schroeder, Puzzle Piece Theatre
You know that moment when you have something really important you want to share, or you've had a hellish day and need to vent- what do you do? You reach for the phone. Since I left my home town of St. Louis to begin my professional theatre career in Chicago, no matter where I was at any moment, someone special was just a phone call away. Two years ago I left Chicago, with my cell phone in my pocket, and moved to Detroit to start Puzzle Piece Theatre.
Amidst the vibrant Detroit arts community, Puzzle Piece Theatre is quickly carving out a reputation for experimentation and challenging boundaries. Carolyn Hayes of Encore Michigan recently said that Puzzle Piece, “has taken root in an epicenter of creative resurgence in Detroit proper, ready to challenge conventional expectations of storytelling and live performance... the company's debut production most strongly asserts that it isn't afraid to stare down jarring subject matter.” As a follow up to our controversial Michigan premiere of the play “Show and Tell”, we now set our sights on continuing our community programming.
Detroit is a very exciting place and I have found it open to creativity and willing to test out new approaches in both art and community building. As a producer and director, I think it is the perfect place to be working at this particular moment in time. I am interested in developing new ways for theatre artists to reach a broader community. I know not everyone is going to come see a play- that is why it is so important for Puzzle Piece to interact with the public in ways that cause and encourage active artistic participation. I want to focus on offering an ease of access that brings a performance experience to participants. I looked towards technology to help me do this and on Saturday April 20th, I am pleased to announce that Puzzle Piece Theatre will debut “Cell Phone Shakespeare”.
Here is how my idea works- you visit Puzzle Piece Theatre's website or facebook page on Monday April 15th, the day we will announce the scene that will be “on call”. You find a copy of the scene or print it from our site, and on the afternoon of Saturday the 20th you call 313-303-8019 during our performance window. The phone will be answered with the first line of the scene, you then continue the scene with your character's response, and suddenly you are acting Shakespeare with one of our professional actors. After the last line is said the call ends, but now you are on speaking terms with Shakespeare... well at least another of his characters. This is the sort of experience that might inspire a call to a friend, continuing the conversation.
At times it can become easy for artists of all stripes to lose sight of the notion that some people find us, and our art, intimidating. A person's cell phone has become one of their most personal possessions, and the way to stay connected to those we care about. Offering the chance to perform with a professional in such a familiar and casual way will help remove the intimidation factor that might keep people from experiencing a performance. The actor on the other end has never met you, is busy trying not to embarrass themselves, while fielding all of the calls on our single line (this first go round really will be a DIY experiment) so there really is no room for judgment. I can't wait to listen to the excitement as participants take on one of the most famous of Shakespeare's creations- no I'm not telling you who until the 15th. I cannot wait to see how all of this plays out. I hope we can make it a regular offering of Puzzle Piece Theatre. Take care, I'll talk to you soon.
Puzzle Piece Theatre's mission is to serve the community by bringing to life a wide variety of theatrical texts through storytelling that re-imagines what is possible in live performance.