If anything good is coming out of quarantine it is that in the face of so much change and isolation, artists are continuing to find new and creative ways to thrive. Turnkey Theatre is a new theatre company that took the parameters of quarantine and found ways to soar over them with a dedication to high-quality, audio-based theatrical experiences. Artistic Director and Owner of Turnkey Theatre Katie Turner, Ph.D., and Lead Marketing Liaison J’Arrian Wade talk about how this theatre company came about and being co-creators of their premiere audio theatrical experience, HOMECOMING: A MEDITATION ON THE NATURAL WORLD.
TurnKey Theatre is born from the creative minds and campus of SDSU. J’Arrian is an SDSU student in the school of Theatre, Television, and Film, where Katie is the major advisor for Theatre and a lecturer in the school. Along with Katie and J’Arrian, everyone in the cast and crew of this project is either SDSU students or alumni.
Before this became a theatre, it started as a discussion on potential new work ideas during a meeting between J’Arrian and Katie.
“TurnKey Theatre came to us organically as an attempt to create diverse art in the midst of the pandemic,” J’Arrian says. “I was looking for a way to make theatre during the pandemic that was more satisfying than Zoom plays, so came to Katie’s office hours to discuss possibilities.”
After hearing J’Arrian wanting to create something abstract and immersive, and knowing that summer research project funding was out there, Katie tried to think of ideas that would be a good fit.
“After a couple of days, the idea struck to create an audio experience accompanied by a box of objects, to physically engage participants in a unique experience without screens,” Katie says. J’Arrian loved the idea and brought ideas for content to the table. She wanted to explore fairy lore, astrology, climate change, and dreams. We got the funding, and the two of us collaborated using different devising exercises for a few weeks, wrote a script, found some actors and designers, and created a prototype.”
J’Arrian says that the format of audio theatre is an exciting format to explore creatively, creating immersive worlds with less production time or cost. It also opens up the availability of the artists and the audience to anyone with an internet connection.
“Audio theatre gives the participant control over their environment while giving us control over the aesthetic. We want to produce unique, original works that we haven’t seen in modern-day media yet.”
Besides audio theatre, TurnKey Theatre is also unique in making the focus on original works, and emerging artists, be core parts of the theatre’s creative foundation. Katie says that the focus on these is essential in our current time.
New stories are crucial for meeting the demands of our times. To help close gaps in representation, and to better understand our immediate moment, we need new plays from a wider variety of playwrights. French modern theatre theorist Antonin Artaud said, “The masterpieces of the past are good for the past–they are not good for us.” This resonates strongly with us, as our current moment demands a reevaluation of so many problematic systems and outmoded ways of thinking.
Secondly, we believe in collaboration as a mode of storytelling. Plays do not need to just be the product of a singular individual laboring alone–they can instead be generated through a dynamic devising process, engaging multiple voices and viewpoints at once. Creating new works offers us a way to practice this approach to play-making.
This is a difficult time for artists just entering the field. By prioritizing emerging artists, we create a space for them to gain valuable experience that will both help them refine their artistic voice and potentially lead to bigger opportunities further down the road.
Board Designer: Beau Gavin
For J’Arrian the addition of the interactive piece to the theatre piece is a deliberate choice to engage the audience. “Through activities and bespoke objects, the participant is gifted with an experience and not just an escape.”
Katie says that audience participation is an essential component of the theatrical experience. “Just like any theatre, the experience isn’t complete without an audience present. In these isolated times, we have redefined what “presence” can mean by including opportunities for direct interaction.”
HOMECOMING, which is co-authored by both Turner and Wade brings a different pressing matter to the center of the tale, the environment, and our connection to this planet that we all call home.
“HOMECOMING is carefully pieced together to not only be a unique script with themes of astrology, animism, climate change, conservation and humanity’s relationship with nature, but to also reflect an honest and real problem,” J’Arrian explains.
“HOMECOMING speaks to possibly the most vital issue of our time–the urgent need to find balance in our relationship with our environment,” Katie says. “We felt that it has everything we value–a new story on an urgent topic, a beautiful and dynamic soundscape, and activities to intimately involve the listener–and so is the perfect piece to help folks understand what we are all about.”
Accessibility to the theatre is important to TurnKey so they have created two ways to enjoy this interactive production. You can order the custom box full of items to interact with during the experience for $49.99 and have access to the production for repeat enjoyment. There is the DIY option, that allows you to participate by guiding you to some at-home options for interactive materials and gives 24-hour access to the production audio. Participants can also access a booklet created by J’Arrian on the mythology of the piece, by clicking here
For more information on TurnKey Theatre, or on HOMECOMING: A MEDITATION ON THE NATURAL WORLD go to www.turnkeytheatre.com
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