Director Sebastienne Mundheim tells the story of her mother fleeing Latvia during WWII by utilizing simple stage props, minimal narration, music, and dance. The audience has to pay close attention to the playful and imaginative way she tells her mother’s story, and has to engage by actually using their own imagination to interpret it.
Mundheim and her White Box theater company did several things uniquely right which made this play so well attended today, and so successfully engaging. First off, she partnered with other area arts projects and organizations to help recruit her audience. MICA students were invited to volunteer in the production, and each show closes with a Q&A hosted by a different prominent person in the arts community. Today, at the 3pm matinee premiere (the original opening on Saturday January 30 was canceled due to our all-day snow storm) Luisa Bieri de Rios, of the Creative Alliance, hosted the Q&A with Mundheim. This is a great way to highlight the arts organizers in our community, and to reach out to various organizations and business- outside of the Theater Project’s normal membership and crowd- to bring more people to the show, and engage diverse parts of the local arts community.
Several student groups attended- some of which are participating in a prop making workshop tomorrow with Mundheim herself. Since she has experience in all the parts of producing a show, she was successfully able to make her visit to Baltimore multi-dimensional and more worthwhile to the community. This is a great example of a smart artist’s business plan- where you look at all the skills you have as an artist, and utilize them outside of your actual performance time. This way, you can not only increase your show attendance, but also find other ways to generate income, improve your own skills, and give back to the community. Coordinating with local schools, businesses, and organizations to teach related workshops or to invite guest speakers is a great way to do this.
Today’s Q&A gave the audience an immediate opportunity to give their feedback on the performance and to ask questions. Often, when someone asked about the meaning behind a prop, or part of the play, Mundheim turned the table and instead asked the audience member what it meant to them, or how they experienced it.
Mundheim also discussed visual theater: “If we stop using words we use our eyes more and our imagination.” Still a project in progress, she began working on the Sea of Birds in fall 2007, but it didn’t debut until an entire year later. Since then, she has added or changed things in the production. “I wanted to make something that felt more like painting…how much can we trust what we experience that isn’t text based? What is your life experience when you shift away from talking?”