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Everyone gets into the act as Torn Space's Response Festival concludes

After experiencing Torn Space Theater's presentation of "The Fever" Friday night, I wished nothing more than to be able to come back for Saturday's performances, to see what would happen then. Because, except for a few key players, it would have an entirely new cast, who also happen to be the ticket holders.

Immersive theater is not yet a big thing in Western New York, despite our area's rich theater culture. Judging from the show at Torn Space, however, it looks like we are ready for it.

"The Fever" is the final experience in this year's Response Performance Festival from Torn Space, which included in August a weather-abbreviated effort called "The Gathering" at Silo City, featuring dancers, actors, dancing track hoes and the Lancaster High School marching band and the dance performance "Bastard" by Palissimo Company.

"The Fever," by 600 Highwaymen from New York City, relies on the contagious response of willing participants to tell a story of how individuals become a community, through shared joy and need. Over 80 uninterrupted minutes, an audience of strangers that at first shyly joins in a mini seated "wave" evolves into a full artistic troupe.

The real performers, hidden among the seated audience, lead this transformation with firm directions given with gentle confidence. That confidence deftly transfers to their recruits, and before long, people aren't selected from the audience, they volunteer. From this spectator clay there emerges a corps of actors, dancers, stage hands and rescuers.

The theater space at the Adam Mickiewicz Library & Dramatic Circle is wide open for the show, with a single row of seats ringing the performance floor Friday night's audience was solid in following direction and comfortable with the show's physicality.

And though they were nearly silent when interacting with the scripted performers during the show, when it was over, everyone wanted to talk about what they had just experienced. Yeah, it was pretty cool.


"The Fever"

4 stars (out of four)

Interactive theatrical experience by 600 Highwaymen (Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone) featuring Tommer Peterson, Marchant Davis and Jax Jackson, at Torn Space Theater in the Adam Mickiewicz Library, 612 Fillmore Ave. Shows Sept. 16 at 4 and 7:30 p.m.

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