Phase Eight Theatre Company in downtown Jacksonville has partnered with MOCA this month, to bring theatrical and visual arts together.
Women’s Work, written and directed by local playwright Kelby Siddons, is a proactive take on an art gallery stroll.
Siddons is thrilled that her play is already sold out for the 7 p.m MOCA premiere on July 12.
“I’m really just purely excited,” Siddons said.
The show offers a new approach to roaming a gallery. Instead of gazing at the exhibitions in silence, guests follow actors through three floors of the museum and learn from the lines they recite.
“The play is all about the space that we find ourselves in and the art that fills that space,” said Siddons.
The performance is organized into three acts following three freshman art students, each of them portraying female artists who are currently featured at MOCA. The audience will watch the characters evolve from their first day in class until the completion of their semester.
Siddons called the first two acts “voluntarily interactive.” That means audience members should not feel obliged to participate if they feel uncomfortable.
During Act One, audience members will be seated as if they are students also enrolled in art class.
Siddons said Act Two is the most immersive. The audience is split into groups of 10 and given a tour of the space by one of the actors. During this time, audience members have an opportunity to ask questions and engage in conversation with the actors.
Act Three has the most traditional format, according to Siddons, where audience members are invited to sit down and watch the actors perform.
The level of interactivity in Siddons work leaves room for uncertainty and counts on the actors ability to improvise.
“You don’t have 40 audience members with you at each rehearsal to know what it is going to take to move them through the space with you, and how they are going to interact.”
However, Siddon expressed utmost faith in her actors to fulfill her artistic vision.
“My actors have been amazing in stepping up and trying to anticipate some things but also realizing you know, I just have to inhabit the character and research what they’re passionate about and know what they know and then let those moments come.”
Siddons only started writing the play a couple of months ago, after going on a tour of the museum when, she said, the space spoke to her.
This is the first time Siddons has produced a show like this. She’s been an audience member for interactive theatrical works in the past.
Siddons hopes that her work will inspire more spectators to appreciate modern art.
She said Women’s Work focuses not only on MOCA’s exhibitions but on greater conversations about identity and arts purpose.
According to Siddons, the play is rooted in MOCA’s A Dark Place of Dreams, featured at the museum until September 9.
Each performance of Women’s Work has an audience limited to 40 members, creating an intimate environment for the play.
The limited number of tickets are available on Eventbrite for $25 each. Students who present their Student IDs will receive a discounted ticket for $10.
There will be two more performances of Women’s Work in the coming weeks on July 19 and 26 at 7 p.m.
Alexandra Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-358-6316.
Editor’s Note: Phase Eight Theatre Company is a tenant at WJCT.