On Stage

Art Imitates Life

Two innovative theaters are trading the stage for the Cable Car and Lippitt House


This month, The Wilbury Group and Strange Attractor Theatre Company will each be moving away from stages in the typical sense. With their respective productions of The Flick and the multisensory experience Back to the Work, these groups will explore the use of space and challenge audiences’ expectations by taking over two nontraditional venues: the Cable Car Cinema and the Lippitt House Museum.

The Flick, written by Annie Baker, finds three employees working in a rundown movie house. Rather than create a set, The Wilbury Group turned to the Cable Car.

“Turns out they were already big fans of the play and loved the idea,” explains artistic director Josh Short. “The play is set entirely in the movie theater, so to be able to have the set already ‘built’ for us is a wonderful thing.”

According to Short, Annie Baker’s writing already demands honesty from actors performing her work, but having the show take place in a functioning movie theater raises those stakes. It also plays with audiences’ expectations and creates a deeper sense of intimacy. Rather than watching the performance from their usual place in the theater, the audience will be seated against the screen, facing the empty seats and watching the three “employees” in their element.

Over at the Lippitt House, Back to the Work finds Strange Attractor blurring the lines between history and fiction through a curated, interactive exhibit. Describing it as a “time travel treasure hunt” and “mysterious, multimedia adventure-seeking,” Strange Attractor’s Rebecca Noon explains that the goal of the installation is to explore the lesser known stories of those who have worked – and continue to work – in the historic mansion.

“Because there weren’t enough histories taken by the working-class people circa 1880 for us to fill an exhibit with their stories, and partly because our interest is getting the audience to see their world – and all the objects in it – differently, not everything the audience encounters will be an exact replica or 100 percent historically accurate,” Noon explains. “But because we are working from research and with historians, it’s not total artistic invention either.”

Their goal is to take advantage of theatrical tools to tell these stories of domestic workers and builders via an interactive experience rather than a traditional performance. “Working at Lippitt House is really delicious because we know what the basis for the ‘story’ is and we know what the ‘space’ is. We have very firm ground upon which to build themes and create drama.”

The Flick will run March 8–12, 15–18, and 22–25; Back to the Work will run on Tuesday and Sundays in March and April.