An older former couple reflecting on the trajectory of their relationship. A 25-year-old woman losing her virginity. A gay man witnessing a motel room gang bang. A romance between two people who have never met in the flesh. All are stories played out in The Human Symphony, a performance art piece produced by the New York Neo-Futurists, created and directed by Dylan Marron, and performed by randomly selected audience members.
Before your heart starts pounding at the prospect of being pulled onstage to act out a play you’ve never rehearsed, let alone read before, know that audience members must give consent to be in the pool of potential performers. This consent indicates you are willing to be onstage for the duration of the 70-minute show.
Six people are selected by the director and handed a set of headphones attached to an iPod. Once Marron sets each person up in a spot and presses start on the iPods, the performers must carry out the unique set of directions spoken to them through their headphones. The audience only hears what is played through the speakers and the performers only hear what is on their iPods. No one involved with the production interferes with what happens onstage. The result is a technically specific, amazingly choreographed and incredibly imaginative performance.
In keeping with the spirit of treating the audience as the creators, the narratives that play out are actual recorded interviews with real people telling their stories. The main theme is how the Internet brings all kinds of people together in this magical web of interconnectivity. Some of the experiences are painful, some are wonderful, but all teach important lessons. The stories are engaging and relatable, which is important at times when the stage directions become a little too automatic.
This kind of novelty act sounds like it could be a disaster, but it works really well. It’s fun watching random people act out a show using a head-spinning number of props and a mind-blowing amount of specificity. If you’ve ever been to the popular weekly Neo-Futurist show, “Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind,” you may be familiar with these kinds of antics. The Neo-Futurists are fond of interactive, audience-based storytelling and they do it incredibly well. The result is powerful, hilarious, and often touching.
So don’t worry if you just want to sit back and watch the drama unfold. You can have that experience. But if you’re looking for a very different kind of theatrical experience, the kind where the spotlight is on you, then look no further than The Human Symphony.