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Taking Immersive Theater on the Road with Retro Americana

"Roadside Attraction" bringing the 1970s summer vacation to you (via Third Rail)
“Roadside Attraction” bringing the 1970s summer vacation to you (image via Third Rail Projects)

Third Rail Projects has performed their visually creative pieces in the middle of lunch hour at the World Financial Center, in a former hospital in Brooklyn, and in an opera house in upstate New York, bringing modern dance to an audience who might not usually seek it. Now the New York-based performance group is going on a road trip, with a vintage Coleman pop-up camper decked out in 1970s style. Roadside Attraction is a nostalgia-tinged traveling spectacle rolling out this summer as a tribute to long-haul family excursions.

“Using my childhood as a kicking off point, we’re tapping into 1970s Americana,” artistic director Jennine Willett said over the phone. Photographs and memories from her own family road trips provide much of the aesthetic for the performance’s traveling installation that’s based around the camper, as well as the disjointed family of characters themselves.

“The thing that we’re grappling with in this piece is really family identity,” she said. “Those excruciating and illuminating moments when you identify with your parents.”

While their Steampunk Haunted House has “animated” performing arts centers with Victorian-tinged horror and their current ongoing production Then She Fell is a warped take on Alice in Wonderland, this dance piece has more of the lighthearted immersive theater tones of The Drifting Encyclopedia (2010) and Undercurrents & Exchange (2009) which both expanded on stories during noon lunch hours at the World Financial Center. Willett said that in 2014, the Roadside Attraction camper will be “teleported” into a much bigger work, where the family “will find themselves in one of our immersive worlds.”

Roadside Attraction will camp out on the World Financial Center waterfront, and starting June 16 anyone will be welcome to attend open rehearsals at they construct the experience. From there, it will go to 1 New York Plaza in July and then set out as Third Rail’s traveling production, able to pop-up and offer an immersive theater art installation anywhere.

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