MIAMI: The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts has been making a splash in recent summers with tradition-pushing productions featuring immersive staging that often puts the audience in the heart of the action. H2OMBRE: Brave the Elements, running July 17–Aug. 31, is the Arsht’s latest such offering.
Pichùn Baldinu and Gabriella Baldini, founding members of De La Guarda and creators of Villa Villa, are the brains behind H2OMBRE, which uses some 6,000 gallons of water to delight—and drench—the audience. Raved the Argentina Independent about the show: “The soaked audience swayed and screamed with enthusiasm.”
The experience of H2OMBRE starts the moment audiences enter through the Arsht’s loading dock, which has been transformed into an industrial-esque gateway with a lobby and box office exclusively for the show. Viewers are transported to a supernatural world rich with pop-culture references from graphic novels and toe-tapping jams administered by Miami DJs. Ticketholders sit or stand onstage as aerial acrobatics, aural enchantments and visual actions unfold around them.
“Pichón and Gabriella are extremely collaborative artists and have invited the Arsht team to be very involved behind the scenes,” says Scott Shiller, Arsht Center executive vice president. Flippers not included. Go to www.arshtcenter.org.
VINEYARD HAVEN, MASS.: Did you know that the theatre and nautical worlds share a common vocabulary? The floor of a stage is called a “deck,” for instance. The reason is a bit of an historical overlap in the labor pool: Seamen used to be hired as deckhands to rig theatrical productions. “This was because seamen were used to handling heavy equipment, ropes and curtains from their work upon ships,” says actor/playwright Joe Forbrich, whose The Whaleship Essex bows at Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse through July 12 in a production directed by Peter Zinn.
The intersection of theatre and seafaring has informed Forbrich’s new play on many levels. “What if we could marry the two by telling the true story, replete with authentic sea shanties, of a tragedy that occurred aboard a whaleship that was sunk by a whale in the middle of the Pacific?” Forbrich wonders. “What if we could exploit that common language by laying bare the traditions of both trades while pulling back the curtain on mankind’s eternal quest for oil in a thrillingly theatrical way?”
The Whaleship Essex tackles the tragedy that befell the Essex and its crew in 1820, when it was sunk by an angry sperm whale in the Pacific. An ensemble sings those sea shanties, not in a conventional musical-theatre fashion, but rather as a way of portraying sea life. “Songs are used as an accompaniment to the grisly act of killing a whale and cutting up its blubber to be rendered into oil,” says Forbrich. “They’re used as funeral dirges and to express the joy a workman feels when his efforts result in a job well done.” It’ll be a whale of a tale, without a doubt. Go to www.whaleshipessex.com or www.vineyardplayhouse.org/theater.
GILL, MASS.: If you think summer theatre means musicals or Shakespeare in the great outdoors (or in a tent), the new Silverthorne Theater Company has some deft counter-programming in store. Taking residence on the campus of Northfield Mount Hermon School, a college-prep school in the Connecticut Valley, Silverthorne will stage two brainy comedies and a Brecht epic in a new campus facility, the Rhodes Arts Center’s 200-seat Chiles Theater. The plays are Peter Shaffer’s meta-theatrical farce Black Comedy (July 3–5) and David Ives’s kicky anthology All in the Timing (July 31 and Aug. 1). Between them will be founding co-director David Rowland’s production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle (July 24–26), Brecht’s huge, Solomonic parable, which will feature NMH students alongside Silverthorne’s professional acting company, and which promises to stir “echoes of contemporary unrest in the Ukraine and other former Soviet states.” Rowland’s co-founder is Lucinda Kidder, who will direct the Shaffer play and co-direct the Ives. Go to www.silverthornetheater.org.