The ‘Persuasion’ of black box theater benefits
History is one of the most compelling subject to study. People are always longing to go back and relive the glory of what was. In particular, the period of British history where King George III fell and the regency of British royalty and people of esteemed class has continuously struck the chord of curiosity with people of all ages whether it be with the fairytale-like ball gowns or the never-ending parties.
I myself had a chance to be a part of this time period. Though I don’t own a time machine. And I certainly wasn’t born during this period. Instead, I saw the Indiana University’s Summer Theatre production of “Persuasion,” adapted by Jennifer Le Blanc.
As the multifaceted and ever intertwining love lives of the Elliot family played out, thanks to the black box style of theater, audience members took their place on stage during the performance allowing for them to fully immerse themselves into the plot.
The audience, sitting in British high society, was surrounded by the most refined people of class and status. A chandelier, dripping in crystals and gold. With decadent luxury being used, one chandelier would such be the focal point. But in reality, it was a minor detail should’ve been relatively unnoticed.
With dark wooden furniture, accented by time period fabric and lace, the small intimate stage setting was simplistically beautiful, allowing for enough to be portrayed visually by the cast, but leaving just the right amount left open to the audience’s imagination.
By choosing to do their performance of “Persuasion” in black box style, the cast of IU’s Summer Theatre gave their audience a 360-degree experience to the typical one faceted norm of theater. Depending on where you chose to sit in the theater, it would determine the angle at which you would view the performance. This allowed for different people to see different perspectives of the same play.
Perspective is the point of black box theater. It allows for people to notice things that typically would go unnoticed; what an actor or actress is doing when their back is turned from the crowd, the whispers of the cast when they are pretending to hold conversation and even a chandelier, dripping in crystals and gold.
For example, actor Devin May played man in mourning. At one point during May’s scene as this character, he was sitting at a desk with his back turned towards all sides of the theater except for the one I was sitting at. Normally, with his back being turned, the audience wouldn’t be able to see the facial characterization of his character, but instead this style of theater allowed for me to see May’s face. In doing so, I could see down to the very detail of how May’s face continued to show the raw feelings and emotions of a man in mourning. He had a wide-eyed I’m in shock look on his face, and his mannerisms were nervous, unsteady, and fiddling like. This allowed for the theater experience to grow beneficially for the people watching this performance; by seeing details of a show that normally wouldn’t be seen or noticed, it gives the audience a greater chance to connect with not only the performers, but the show itself.
Black box theater is an amazing way to experience theater, for it allows for the theater to connect with a smaller group of people in a more intimate way. Being able to become aware of the small details that you normally wouldn’t in theater, it provides the grounds for a more emotionally raw connection to be made with all people in the theater.