RDS7: Sam Brooks gets specific

Posted on August 19, 2014 by Basement

Dawn Glover: Tell me about “Site Specific Theatre.”

Sam Brooks: My experience with site specific theatre is mostly self-taught, so I’m probably going to offend a lot of theatre types more educated than I am. But it’s basically theatre that is made to be performed in a specific kind of place, or maybe one specific place. An example is Salon, which is a play that has traveled through salons throughout the country.

It’s about expanding theatre from how creators and audiences usually see it, a dressed up black box with an audience facing one way and actors facing the other, and exploring what theatre can be in spaces that aren’t designed for it, or using the theatricality inherent in those places to bring something out the work, and an audience.

DG: What does Site Specific Theatre offer a director, actors, and an audience?

SB: As a director, it’s really exciting to be confronted with the limitations of a space and then figuring out how to work with it. Things that you usually take for granted in the theatre, like a lighting rig or a seating block, are now things you have to figure out how to bring into the piece and make seem organic.

I think it’s exciting for actors to work in a space that isn’t a theatre, and to be confronted with both the limitations and freedoms that it brings; it takes away a lot of the artifice of theatre and there’s not a lot you can hide behind.

For an audience, it’s a chance to see a play that isn’t in a theatre. It’s a chance to be excited by the form again and to see a different kind of story, and a different way of telling a story. I think it’s easy for both creators and audiences to be bored by traditional forms of theatre and it’s fun to see the medium exploded from time to time.

When we did Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys down in Wellington, the most beautiful thing was seeing how people walking past on the Waterfront reacted to see a bunch of people watch two people sitting and talking in a car. It’s the kind of thing that can only happen with site specific theatre and it’s beautiful to watch.

DG: When you wrote Wine Lips did you already have The Basement Green Room in mind?

SB: I did! It’s a space I know too well, this will be my seventh show in the space, and the green room is such a grubby little space that you can’t help but love it. From the terrible furniture to the lack of soundproofing, it’s like a little three-legged dog.

I remember when I did my first show, which was a double bill of two plays I’d written Goddess and Mab’s Room, I was fresh out of drama school and didn’t know anybody in the industry and suddenly I was sitting in a green room, crudely divided with outside fences, sharing it with the likes of Sophie Roberts, Renee Lyons, Sophie Hambleton, Leon Wadham, Martyn Wood, Shadon Meredith, Simon Leary and Josephine Stewart, some of whom I had looked up to since high school, freaking the fuck out and wondering how my life got to this point.

The beautiful thing about that green room is that it’s full of memories like that, and everybody in the industry, from someone fresh out of drama school to international comedians to Elizabeth Hawthorne has done their five nights in that green room, so I think drawing on the memories of that space and all the people who have been on it is something that is really special.

DG: If you could pick any “site” in the world to build a play/story in, where would you pick?

SB: I would love to do something on the Hilton Wharf. It’s, for my money, the most beautiful place in the entire city at night and I think it’s something you could do something really special and romantic with.

DG: Can we look forward to more Site Specific work from you in the near future?

SB: Hopefully! My dream is to take over The Basement for a week, doing both of my site specific shows so far, Riding in Cars with (Mostly Straight) Boys and Wine Lips, in the carpark and green room, then taking over the main space to do a show about techies packing out a show and have an 11PM show in the bar.

But I’d guess I’d have to write those shows first, huh?

DG: Be sure to check out Wine Lips, in the dressing rooms, the 26th-30th of August.


Row D Seat 7 is a blog written by Dawn Glover. Dawn studied acting at Purdue University (USA) earning her Masters of Fine Arts in Performance. She has worked professionally as an actor and singer throughout The States and made Auckland her new home almost two years ago. She is one of the founders of Navi Collaborative and is actively interested in theatre for social change, experimental works, and performance art.