Located about three hours outside Philadelphia, the town of Centralia, Pa., is currently a shadow of its former self. What once was a bustling coal mining community is now in ruin due to a horrific mine fire in the '60s that still burns underground today.
Despite being deemed practically unlivable by the state, a handful of people still live in Centralia. Who are these residents, and what are their stories? "Centralia," an interactive theater experience put on by UglyRhino Productions -- and co-written by Metro's own T. Michelle Murphy -- invites you to find out. The show first ran last Halloween to much success; the troupe has brought the piece back for a second round, which was recently extended. We spoke with Executive Producer Bryce Norbitz to learn more about the production, which takes the audience from scene to scene across the top floor of the Brooklyn Lyceum.?The experience incorporates signature cocktails and conversation between the acts.
How much did you know about Centralia before this project, and how did the idea for the show come about?
In the warehouse [where we perform], it's so industrial and rusty, which we love. So we were like, "There has to be a story about something that would fit in this setting!" I had just a few weeks before read an article about Centralia, so we started looking it up and just got really into the idea. The first time we used the story of Centralia for Halloween, the people really responded. Also, the format worked perfectly because you get to hear everyone's stories. You are sort of piecing the town's story together as you go through. Having the drinks allows you time to talk to people -- like, "What did you see in yours? What do you think is going on with that?"
Are the characters in your show based on real people?
It was more composites. For example, there's a girl in one of the scenes [whose] parents were victims of a murder-suicide -- and that's true. They are based on fact, but the characterizations are dramatized.
Is social theater the next big trend in staging performances?
We feel very strongly that this is the new big thing. What people want is a night out where they can do a lot of things. They want to pay one ticket price, and they want to be able to talk to their friends, see a performance, get some good drinks, hear some music, do a little dancing. There are shows that are similar, like "Sleep No More," and people respond so positively to that because you can't go wrong: If you don't like the show, you're gonna like the drinks; and if you don't like the drinks, you're gonna like the DJ. People really are drawn to this story, so we're sticking to it. And we hope to develop it even further -- maybe take it to another city. I think there's a lot that can be done with both the story and the format.
If you go
Friday and Saturday; arrive from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
227 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn