By Tanner Kent
Free Press Features Editor
MANKATO — Seeing a play in a theater is one thing. Seeing one in your living room is another matter entirely.
With the debut of “The Matriarchy” in June, the Blue Earth Reader Workshop is taking the first step toward bringing the latest theatrical trend to dens and dining rooms in the Mankato area.
“It’s intended to be intimate and personal,” said Tom Barna, a Mankato playwright who publishes under the name tdbarna and wrote “The Matriarchy” script. “The concept of tearing down the fourth wall is interesting.”
In many forms of theater, the “fourth wall” -- the metaphorical barrier that divides the audience from the stage -- is untouchable. Some contemporary directors (as well as filmmakers and even authors) momentarily break the fourth wall for comic or dramatic effect, but rarely is that barrier removed completely.
That’s precisely what happens in living room theatre.
“The actors are directly in your face,” said Leslie DuPree-Cady, director of the upcoming show. “That brings on a whole new meaning.”
Living room theatre, Barna said, is gaining popularity on the coasts, but the Blue Earth Reader Workshop is the first to bring it to Minnesota.
The debut performances won’t be held in living rooms per se; instead, they’ll begin with a pair of small, intimate venues -- June 15 and 16 at the Twin Rivers Center for the Arts in Mankato and June 23 at the Red Rock Center in Fairmont.
From there, Barna said the Blue Earth Reader Workshop will be surveying patrons and gauging interest for a true living room performance. The host will provide an audience of approximately 20 people and a meal in exchange for the production.
For both Barna and DuPree-Cady, this is the first time working on a living room-style production. They understand it will likely be a first for audience members as well -- so, to get folks primed for the novel event, actors will stage a short, 10-minute performance while theatre-goers are noshing on snacks and refreshments in the hallway before the show.
“All of a sudden, a little theatre will break out,” Barna said.
“The Matriarchy” is a drama about a group of female relatives who meet upon the death of the family patriarch. Unknown to each other, each has had a troubling experience with the patriarch. Barna said it’s a story of “survival, and what people will do to survive.”
Tickets are available for the upcoming performances at the Twin Rivers box office, 507-387-1008 or www.twinriverarts.org.