At RPI’s EMPAC, audience breaks fourth wall as “The Extra People” in Ant Hampton’s experimental piece

Who is the actor and who is the audience?

Who is the actor and who is the audience?

Troy, NY — The “fourth wall” is the imaginary barrier that separates the actors from the audience in a traditional theater production. When it’s broken, the audience is shocked into an awareness of the role they play in supporting the spectacle at hand. In British artist Ant Hampton’s new production, developed in residence at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (110 8th St., Troy), the fourth wall is so thin as to be nearly imperceptible, with the line between performer and audience equally unclear. On Thursday, September 10, 2015 the world premiere will find audience members entering the dimly lit Theater, equipped with earphones, a flashlight, and a high-viz jacket to search for who might be considered The Extra People.

Starting with Rotozaza’s Etiquette (2007), Hampton has created nine “autoteatro” works, including his recent Bessie-award-winning collaboration with Tim Etchells for library reading rooms (The Quiet Volume). In autoteatro, automated processes are delivered to the audience, normally through prerecorded audio, which allow the audience to experience the piece from the inside. In the case of The Extra People, audience members will be issued iPods with earbuds that will deliver particular instructions to each person. In this way, every person in the room will experience shifting roles on the participant-spectator spectrum.

Over the course of three hours, six groups of 15 audience members will be led into the Theater, where 15 more will already be present onstage. After half an hour, they will find themselves replacing those onstage, only to discover that another 15 have appeared in the seats they’ve left behind. Within this strange process, they’re cast along with everyone else as some kind of extra. But an extra for what?

The Extra People was commissioned by EMPAC and will premiere in the space where it was developed via the artist-in-residence program. More info at empac.rpi.edu.

Note: When reserving tickets to this event, please specify the time you would like to attend. The piece will begin at 7 PM and cycle on the half hour until 10. For ticket reservations please contact the EMPAC Box Office at 518-276-3921.

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