If you were asked to enter a small black box with a complete stranger, I’m sure you would decline. However, from March 22 to 24 between noon and 6 p.m., Fairfield University students and staff did exactly this. Theater for One is an intimate theater experience in which someone can enter a 9-by-4 foot red-velvet theater and enjoy a five to six minute performance.
Artistic director Christine Jones and LOT-EK architects put their minds together to create Theater for One, which has become largely popular in New York City. Jones explained her passion for the intimate theater experience to the New York Times.
“What people said to me is that, aside from the song or poetry, it’s just the experience of sitting across from someone in a private space,” said Jones. “We don’t slow down very often and take the time to look into someone’s eyes. That’s the gift of this.”
Fairfield brought Theater for One to campus so that students could experience the art of theater in a new setting. Theater for One offers six different performances in which some actors sing, dance, do magic tricks, etc. Business development manager at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts Jennifer Pratt explained that Theater for One does not target solely visual and performing arts majors, but students of all majors and passions.
“We are really interested in bringing unique theater experiences to Fairfield and also in bringing experiences that are outside of the walls of the Quick Center that can be really accessible to the student body and kind of change the way that we think about a space,” said Pratt. “Hopefully anybody that walks through here and has this experience will walk through the [Barone Campus Center] again and be like ‘Oh that’s right, the Quick Center did that cool thing here.’”
Upon entering the small theater, the audience member is seated in a chair and faces a blank, red-velvet wall, acting as a stage curtain. The wall then opens up to reveal an actor, only a few feet away from the audience member, which emphasizes the intimacy of the performance. Eye contact with the performer is inevitable and is something that doesn’t typically happen during a large theater performance. With stage lights and hundreds of audience members, it’s almost impossible for typical theater performers to make direct eye-contact with the audience. Theater for One breaks this norm.
Senior Bethany Russo described her experience in the box as something that she’s never had the opportunity to do before. Russo was able to connect with the performer on an emotional level as the actress performed a monologue about returning home after visiting a friend.
“My performance was a monologue by a woman that was very intense and very emotional. It honestly made me cry,” said Russo. “I would never guess that a five to seven minute monologue would make me cry, but I think the intimacy of the box heightened the emotions of both the performance and the audience.”
Also taking the audience on an emotional rollercoaster was a performance in which the actor suggested he was applying for a job. The performer acted as if the audience member was the interviewer and he then began to explain his resume. There was a large eight year gap on his resume due to the fact that following an office party the actor was followed back to his apartment by a serial killer and was shot four times. This horrific incident caused the actor to take an eight year hiatus from working.
For people who didn’t want to experience such emotional performances, there were also entertaining acts with music, magic and dancing. One included an older male performer who discussed the difference between his generation and the 21st century generation through performing both soft-shoe dancing and tap dancing. The overall message of this performance was about time, how quickly time passes and the inevitability of running out of time.
Another quality about Theater for One that may have been an awkward experience for audience members is the dialogue that occurs within the theater. When the actor speaks and asks rhetorical questions, it’s almost confusing as to whether or not you’re supposed to respond. Are you solely watching a show, or are you engaging personally with the actor? The answer is entirely up to the audience member. Each experience is different for each observer and one can manipulate their experience in the theater to best fit their own comfort level.
Fairfield University Student Association President Zoë Ferranti ’17 was the first student in line for the event on Wednesday afternoon and enjoyed her experience.
“I was actually pretty nervous and anxious about getting inside a little black box and not knowing what to expect,” said Ferranti. “But I think after going in and watching the little show, I realized it was a very intimate and cool type of thing.”
Even though Ferranti explained that she’s never experienced a one-on-one type of show, she found herself wanting to join in and answer the actor’s rhetorical questions or get up and dance.
As explained by Ferranti, being nervous prior to entering the box is a normal trend. It’s a mysterious type of interaction in the theater where not knowing what to expect can be intimidating. However, according to attendee Dan Gallagher ‘19, students should conquer their fear of the unknown and take the step out of their comfort zone to experience Theater for One. “Make like Nike and just do it,” said Gallagher.