A car pulls up and you get inside. In the driver’s seat is a woman grappling with her father’s unusual illness. She drives to a liquor store and picks up an ex-boyfriend. On the dash is her dad, who has miraculously transformed into a silent teddy bear.
Such is the conceit of “Teddy,” the unusual 15-minute mini-drama staged entirely inside a car as it circles the streets of Brookline.
The one-nigh-only show premiered on Sunday in Coolidge Corner, where audience members, up to three at a time, watched the action unfold not from a chair in a theater mezzanine, but from the back seat of a 2007 Toyota Corolla.
“The cool thing about where [lead actress Chelsea Schmidt] is sitting, no matter where you’re sitting you get a view of her through the rear view mirror,” said Nick Medvescek, the play’s producer. “She has to convey a lot through her eyes.”
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“Teddy,” which also stars Will Madden, is the first installment of a project of low-budget mini-productions or “minipros,” which Medvescek said aims to challenge what it means to put on a play in Boston.
Most productions in the city, he said, take months of planning and rehearsals and have to draw enough of an audience to pack a theater.
“Mini pros,” meanwhile, take almost no time to plan and stage, cost almost nothing and can happen almost anywhere. Medvescek said he’s partnering with various Boston artists to put on shows in unexpected spots all around the city in 2016 – a parking garage, say, or a living room.
“That’s where our modern audiences want to be. Boston has some of the most beautiful theater spaces in the country,” he said. “But my work has been probing areas outside that space for what we can do with it.”
There were, obviously, some challenges that came with putting on a show in a moving vehiclewith an actor at the wheel, said MJ Halberstadt, the playwright.
In addition to remembering their lines and giving a compelling performance while keeping everyone safe, actors had to grapple with surprises on the road, he said.
In the event of traffic or some other on-road event, the actors were instructed to improvise by riffing or fiddling with the radio.
“There was a jaywalker who walked in front of the car during [a rehearsal], so she just wove a reference to that into her next line,” Halberstadt said.
Hopping into a car for an immersive theater experience may not be everyone’s choice for a night out, he admitted.
But for the Uber and Lyft generation accustomed to the idea of hailing a ride at the push of a button, why not hail a play?
“There are so many theaters in Boston that are going to tremendous lengths to appease as many people as possible and that’s good and well,” he said. “In my work in general I create experiences that are for younger audiences who are willing to follow a story in unexpected ways.”
Have your own idea for a “mini pro?” Medvescek said he is currently taking pitches online.