This past weekend, The Boston Globe ran an article about a new production called "Trapped in a Room with a Zombie" that is currently running in several cities simultaneously. The title really does say it all. Audiences are trapped in a room with a zombie where they are tasked with solving a puzzle-like game before the undead reaches them. As times ticks, the zombie is allowed to get closer and closer to participants. One part entertainment; one part team building/group bonding (office retreat, anyone?) experience. Only 30% escape alive, err, I mean solve the puzzle.
What does this all mean?
Modern audiences are craving these theatrical experiences where fourth wall is demolished and they are able to bond with their fellow theater-goers through dance, thrills, and chills while actually taking part in the action.
But does that mean the traditional theatrical experience is dead?
Not necessarily. If anything, the success of these shows demonstrate that audiences go to the theater seeking a communal experience. Nothing brings a group of strangers together like share laughter or tears. If producers continue to bring great pieces of work to the stage (whether under a proscenium arch or not) that can elicit shared emotional responses by audiences, there will certainly be room for both kinds of theatrical presentations for many more years to come!
Both forms of theater will continue to allow writers, directors, and performers to think creatively and find engaging and interesting ways to share stories whether through new styles, structures, or settings.