Bob Stevenson is no stranger to the devising of nationally-recognized original theatre at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, but creating his upcoming show was like “learning to walk again.”
“It was like everything we knew was wrong,” he said. “We’d start to build something and come up with cool narrative ideas, and we’d realize it doesn’t matter because the narrative doesn’t matter. We’re constantly, even to this day, fighting our instinct to create a mono-mythic linear narrative.”
Theatre @ UAFS’ new production “Mist and Shadows” might have been difficult to devise, but Stevenson and the students performing in the play hope to wow theatre lovers with the immersive and interactive production, which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18-20 and 22-23 in the Breedlove Auditorium, located at 5120 Grand Ave.
The show is part of the university’s Season of Entertainment 38. Tickets are $6 for the general public and free for UAFS employees and students. The show is rated for ages 14 and older due to dark themes, violence and sensuality.
The show, which Stevenson described as “not your average night at the theatre,” combines elements of escape rooms, haunted houses and installation art, where the audience are active participants in the production.
“It’s not going to be a show where you sit in your seat and watch passively. In fact, there won’t be seats to sit in,” Stevenson said. “The show will be a promenade, where the audience walks around within it. It’s designed to be touched, traveled through, and figured out as you go. Expect the actors to talk to you, to touch you, to offer you items, and to help you on your journey.”
While Stevenson wouldn’t give away many of the plot’s details, he did say the show would be suspenseful with a “Lovecraftian feel.”
“It’s not jump scare thing like a haunted house, but we want to emphasize that it’s going to be a mysterious experience,” he said.
Stevenson said interactive shows such as “Mist and Shadows” are part of an emerging trend in theatre popularized by theatre companies in New York City and London.
“I saw one of these three or four years ago in New York, and it’s been floating around in my mind ever since,” Stevenson said. “How could we, as a university theatre program, take our Theatre @ UAFS style of original devised storytelling and add in these immersive aspects to it? I floated the idea past the students, and they were nearly unanimous in wanting to do it.”
No bags or purses will be admitted due to the nature of the show, but a coat check will be provided for attendees. Audience members will also be wearing a costume piece similar to a hoodie that will be provided.
The production is part of Season of Entertainment 38, a yearlong lineup of entertainment sponsored by the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith featuring a variety of plays, musicals and symphonic performances.