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Art Thu Feb 18 2010

What the Twins Were Trying to Say

twins.jpg

The twins: Ashleigh LaThrop and Paige Collins. Photo by Peter Coombs

Something awesome is happening at Steppenwolf this week. Garage Rep, a theatrical program combining three productions from three of Chicago's most innovative theater companies, is opening. The three plays--Adore, punkplay, and The Twins Would Like to Say--are being presented in repertory through April 25.

This morning I spoke with Devon de Mayo and Seth Bockley about their play, The Twins Would Like to Say--the culmination of a lot of work between a troupe of enthusiastic and ambitious local creatives (Chicago-based Dog and Pony Theatre Company--which de Mayo is co-founder of). The Twins Would Like to Say is an interactive performance based on the true story of a pair of identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons, Caribbean immigrants trying to find their place in provincial Wales in the 1970s. At eight years old they made a pact to speak to no one but each other--a pact that lasted over 20 years. Because they were unable to express themselves verbally in their daily lives, they took to writing and their imaginary worlds blossomed into a collection of highly imaginative novels detailing provocative themes like teenage lust and rebellion.

Devon de Mayo and Seth Bockley didn't know each other personally before they started this project together, but they were fans of each others' work. They decided to combine efforts and started brainstorming together--meeting regularly and giving each other homework. De Mayo discovered the story of the twins, brought it up to Bockley, and they ran with it. The result is a colorful, choose-your-own-adventure combination of the twins' true life (documented by their psychological case studies), and their fantasy life (preserved in their novels). Bockley and de Mayo decided to focus their hour-long play on the twins' teen years because that was when when their imaginations really ran amok--a period of life that de Mayo is particularly interested in because of that imaginative spirit, as evidenced by her past projects.

The layered technique that is used to present this story allows the audience to follow the twins on quite a journey--much more than you might imagine you could fit into an hour--something Bockley and de Mayo are particularly proud of. Because of that, though, you won't be able to catch all the action at once, so they hope you'll revisit the show a few times during its two month run.

While speaking about their play, both Bockley and de Mayo repeatedly used the word "immersive." Bockley used his background in design-based theater to imagine a lush visual environment for the audience to get lost in. This play is as much an art installation as a performance; as much of an experience as a production. Bockley and de Mayo want their audiences to make discoveries, molding their experience as they feel their way through it. This, and the sense of community that comes with this user-interactive kind of theater experience, is what Bockley and de Mayo aim to foster.

Create your own adventure with the twins at Steppenwolf, and while you're there, check out Adore and punkplay. It's like an NĂ¼-Theater sandwich. And yes, I just made that term up.


 
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Holly Bean / February 19, 2010 6:38 AM

Where did that lovely pop-up book come from?

Kelly Reaves / February 27, 2010 4:33 PM

I'm not sure, but I'll bet Dog & Pony (the theater company) made it.

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