There’s a new theater company in Seattle that’s breaking the boundaries of performing arts. The Horse in Motion, a small company composed of UW Drama graduates, attempts to change the way that theater is defined. Maybe that sounds naïve, but after talking to Director Bobbin Ramsey and watching a sample of their upcoming play, “Attempts on Her Life,” it’s not as idealistic as you’d think.
The concept is simple. Historically, theater has been reserved for an older demographic because, well, those are the people who can afford it; they’re the people who keep theater alive. A few months ago, I went to a play and sat next to an elderly gentleman whose head nodded off within the first 10 minutes of the performance, and 30 minutes later I did the same (okay, the play wasn’t that good); the theater scene in Seattle is trying to change that. With fringe companies, the audience is asked to participate, listen, and pay attention to what’s happening onstage. And The Horse in Motion reinterprets the word stage. “Attempts on Her Life,” is a promenade play, which means that you’ll be walking up and down stairs, through bathrooms and hallways, and rooms of the University Heights Center. This newly-formed theater company, which came together in February of this year, wants to get inside your head.
Ramsey explained, “Our lives right now are sitting and watching things, whether it’s television, whether it’s a computer screen. Instead of having the audience just sit down again and watch something else, we want to make it experiential.” She and the other 24 members of the group recently graduated from UW’s Drama program, and the majority of them live in the heart of Capitol Hill. “We’re all artists, we’re all recently graduated, so naturally we gravitated to Capitol Hill because it’s such an arts hub.”
Ramsey is especially interested in site-specific theater – using found spaces all over the city, whether it’s a grocery store, a park, or a retail store. She iterates that these are the spaces that people go to and, therefore, this is where art should be discovered – not exclusively in a theater with costly tickets.
Last summer, Ramsey directed “Waiting for Godot,” a free production put on by Arts on the Waterfront, and commented on how amazing it was to watch the general public stumble upon a free play. “If theater is a reflection of our world, then I think theater should exist in our world, not in a box,” she said.
For its first production, The Horse in Motion chose the upcoming play, “Attempts on Her Life,” which was first produced in Royal Court Theater in London in 1997. Playright Encyclopedia said of it, “From pornography and ethnic violence, to terrorism and unprotected sex, its strange array of nameless characters attempt to invent the perfect story to encapsulate our time.”
Once the group starting producing “Attempts on Her Life,” they saw the company’s potential. Many of them had administrative experience and the knowledge of starting up their own business, so they had all of the tools needed to start. The company just launched a Kickstarter campaign to ensure its future after the first production, and has been pleasantly overwhelmed by the positive reactions and the support from the community in Capitol Hill and Seattle.
Making its debut on March 23, the company preformed at Washington Hall during “12 Minutes Max,” a series put on by On the Boards, which is an open mic format for artists who are looking to gain exposure and try out new ideas. “Attempts on Her Life” opened the show with a brief, 12-minute glimpse of what is to come in April for the full production. It was a short, raw performance, filled with guttural noises, beautiful choreography, and a harsh look into the life of Anne, the play’s lead.
These social issues in “Attempts on Her Life” echo Ramsey’s intent as director of this play: “Art can be a vessel for social change. This play is about the way that we… build walls and make assumptions based on self-preservation. What does that indicate about us?”
“Attempts on Her Life” will run April 12 – 27 at University Heights. Tickets range from $15 – $25. More information is available at www.thehorseinmotion.org. As well, access to The Horse in Motion’s Kickstarter campaign can be found at http://kck.st/1dYJuVq.