When Shea Elmore talks about his upcoming project, This Is Storybox, his face lights up and you can’t help but listen and be intoxicated with his excitement and sincerity. What he brings us is an interactive approach to performance, where audience members choose to be part of the action or plainly be a viewer.
The project is reminiscent of the 60s movement of the Theatre of the Opressed and Brazilian Augusto Boal, yet Elmore’s contemporary take was inspired and emerged from his collaboration with a professor from the University of Central Florida.
In our Q&A you will find out what makes Storybox different and why you should step in.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background in the Arts.
I moved to New York 4 years ago after graduating from University of Central Florida. The plan was to move up and dive into a career on the stage. A couple years ago, however, I started to realize that I wasn’t finding the type of theatre I wanted to do – the type of theatre that could reach out and touch an audience, react to what they’re giving in ways that film, television, even most other forms of theatre can’t do. I’m confident now that I’m on the right track.
What is This Is Storybox exactly?
This is Storybox is the introduction to New York audiences of a new form of dramatic improvisation which puts an audience member in the spotlight. The playing area is taped out on the floor, and the second the spect-actor (as they’re termed in our world) crosses the line the story begins. Five inter-actors (as we’re termed) support the spect through their journey, figuring out desires and attempting to create a compelling story.
How many audience members can be part of the on stage action a night?
We’ll play three stories each night, so twelve stories total during the run of the production. No one is pulled from the audience against their will. It’s by volunteer only, and we don’t have any want to make the spect-actors look like fools. Our purpose is to empower people and help them realize the magnitude of their potential.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea for Storybox was created by Jeff Wirth*, a former professor at University of Central Florida. His motivation was and is to show the power of play and to allow people (adults and non-actors especially) the chance to let go of the roles we lock onto and remember what it’s like to play various parts in our life.
How has the development and acceptance been so far?
If this ended today I would already feel like it’s been a huge success. I produced a workshop for 11 actors in April, taught by Jeff, and from there I took a smaller section to do a full show. We have volunteer spect-actors at each rehearsal so we have the opportunity to work with a multitude of personalities. Generally, it’s an experience they can’t stop talking about days later. Every person I explain the concept to is interested in learning more about Storybox, even if for no other reason than the sheer novelty of it.
Share with us your experience directing.
This is my first time directing a show, and it’s going exceedingly well. I studied Storybox in college, so I have a strong basis from which to lead the group, but it’s just as thrilling to learn new techniques along with them. The actors in the show have a wealth of experience, including improv; however, this style is completely new to them. We’ve only had a handful of rehearsals to date, and yet the group’s skill set grows exponentially each time. I have complete confidence in this cast and it’s going to be an amazing experience.
What do you want the audience leaving with?
I want the audience leaving with the belief in the power of play, and I want them to have new insights into the creativity and potential of theatre.
This Is Storybox
Shetler Studios, 244 W 54th St, Penthouse 1
Only 4 performances: Thursday, July 29 @8pm; Friday, July 30 @8pm; Saturday, July 31 @8pm; and Monday, August 2 @8pm.
Tickets $10 available at www.BrownPaperTickets.com
*Jeff Wirth’s “Manifesto of Play”: