Instead of performing at the usual Center for Dramatic Art, LAB! Theatre’s next show, “Tender Napalm,” will be held at Linda’s Downbar on Franklin Street.
Student director Nathaniel Claridad, a third-year graduate student, said this location fits the style of the show. The play uses the concept of found spaces, in which an atypical performance space is used for a show.
“We came up with the idea of Linda’s Downbar because of the nature of the play — it’s very gritty, raw,” Claridad said.
Actor Pat McHugh, a third-year graduate student who plays the character Man, said the play’s plot is complex.
“It’s about two people in a dysfunctional relationship that are sort of coming to terms with it in their own way, which is kind of fantastical and brutal,” McHugh said. “It hits many notes that are weird and dark and sexy and twisted and funny and otherworldly.”
For the director and actors, Linda’s mirrored the feel of the play.
“What’s especially disorienting is that the lights are on the audience as much as they’re on the actors,” McHugh said.
“We’re going to be able to see everybody in the audience and hopefully not acknowledge them.”
Claridad said he wanted to make this more than just a play at a bar.
“I wanted to use the entire space,” he said. “That’s why they’re everywhere. You never know where they’re going to be — tables, bar, the stage.”
Nicola Vann, a senior dramatic art major who plays the character Woman, said the cast was able to adjust to the unique location.
“We pull a lot of ideas and inspiration from the space around us,” Vann said. “I know that LAB! is willing to take on risky pieces, and we’re looking to do things in more unusual spaces.”
McHugh also mentioned that the acoustics were a problem because the sound doesn’t carry from one side of the room to the other as easily as it does in a theater, but the cast found ways to make the space work.
“It’s a chance to see up close and personal actors that are really throwing themselves into a complex piece,” he said.
“It’s a unique experience, not something you’re going to find anywhere around Chapel Hill. So the fact that it’s free, why not show up?”
Claridad said that immersive theater is not being done in the area, but it is a trend in New York City.
Vann was the one who originally submitted the play to LAB! Theatre to be performed.
She saw it in Ireland and said it was a piece she wanted to perform, so she asked Claridad to direct it.
Vann also said she appreciates the show’s uniqueness.
“It’s a hard show to explain,” she said. “And you can’t really tell people what to expect.”
Claridad said he was up for the challenge the play presented to him.
“It looked difficult, so I said ‘yes,’” he said. “They’re never sure where they are, whether they’re in the real world or not.”
Vann then asked him if he knew anyone who could play the other character in the show, and Claridad suggested McHugh.
“I gave him the script because it seemed right up his alley,” Claridad said.
Vann said she knew this was the kind of play LAB! would produce.
“Come see it and grab a drink while you’re at it because the bar will be open,” Claridad said.
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