Baby Horse Theatre Group, a new Louisville company, blurs the line between drama and performance art with its first experimental show. Devised from extensive interviews with one ordinary subject, “Biography of Physical Sensation” tells the story of one woman’s life through her memories.
Here’s the twist: the audience doesn’t watch the performers act out scenes. You select a level of intensity before the show starts, and that number dictates the level of involvement with the performance. Each audience member will be experience sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of varying degrees.
Level one is “the least intense,” says co-artistic director Jon Becraft—mostly smelling, hearing and feeling items.
“Level two gets a little more intense, a little more risky. They open themselves up to some discomfort, maybe something might be a little bit embarrassing,” says Becraft. “Level three will have maybe some things that are painful, that will push them outside of their comfort zone, possibly some removal of clothing, some getting messy and dirty, things that they might not normally be comfortable doing in front of strangers.”
Becraft and fellow artistic director Kelli Fitzgibbons borrowed the concept from Austin’s Rubber Repertory Theatre, but chose a new subject (a friend from their college days, Lydia Lovell) for their original production.
“We interviewed a few different people we thought would be interesting subjects for the show. We narrowed it down to people we thought would really open up to us and be comfortable with this process,” says Becraft.
“Most people who come to seet his show aren’t going to be extraordinary people, so they can relate to these events and these memories most people have,” he adds.
Becraft, Fitzgibbons and actress Danielle Burns will direct audience members through their interaction with the script.
“As performers, we’re there to guide and instruct the audience members to be the performers themselves,” says Becraft. “They are the ones performing the art, they’re the ones up in front of the audience or with other audience members performing these acts.”
The show is a meeting ground of devised theater and performance art, which demands a higher level of involvement and physical engagement from its audience. It’s a niche that isn’t often explored by other theater companies in Louisville. Becraft and Fitzgibbons hope to change that.
“It’s really an exciting thing for an audience that’s so used to coming in to a theater and sitting down to watch a show, to interact directly with the people putting on the show and for them to have an experience they couldn’t have at a movie theater or watching TV,” says Becraft.
Seating is limited to 18 for each performance of “Biography of Physical Sensation.” The show opened last weekend and runs Friday and Saturday at Highland Green Discovery Center on Bardstown Road. Tickets are available online, and due to the limited audience, advance purchase is suggested.