Michael Silverstone and Abigail Browde are the founders of the theater company 600 HIGHWAYMEN, which was reviewed “ONE OF NEW YORK’S BEST NONTRADITIONAL COMPANIES” by The New Yorker. Michael and Abigail have been making performances together for about 8 years and they are the writers, directors, and performers of the The Fever. We interviewed them ahead of their upcoming performance and its significance to the climate of the world we live in today.
What were your motivations behind creating this piece, and how did it all come together?
We started the process thinking that we were going to be creating a version of The Rite of Spring. We knew the performance would be about an assembly of people, which excited us. And we had a feeling it had to do with some sort of sacrifice, but we were searching for what that idea meant to us.
“A lot of these horrors have to do with how a dominant culture was pushing out certain kinds of people. We felt limited by our distance, and we wanted to be present.”
Meanwhile, we were spending a lot of time on tour with two other shows, The Record and Employee of the Year. We were spending time away from home, and trying to understand our country and everything that was happening. It seemed as if, every day, a new horror emerged. A lot of these horrors have to do with how a dominant culture was pushing out certain kinds of people. We felt limited by our distance, and we wanted to be present. We started thinking about participation, in general, and how standing up is a form of action.
We had a work-in-progress showing of The Fever, and as an experiment, we decided to go out on a limb and use the audience to make the show. We had never done anything like this before, and it really scared us. It challenges our sense of control, but it felt right. It felt risky and fragile – and timely. The show is fueled by trust, and we realized that this trust, this our dependence on one another, could be the subject of the work. So we decided to keep going.
What is the importance of the participatory audience component?
In everything we’ve made together, the subject of our show is always the people onstage, and the witnesses – the spectators – are who create the story. But with The Fever, this wasn’t enough. The portrait we were trying to bring into focus was of the whole room. We needed the whole room involved to tell the story, no one could sit in the dark.
What have been your experiences with the audiences you’ve worked with so far?
We’ve had the opportunities to make the piece in many cities in the US and in Europe. And everywhere we make it, it has a different quality. Touring our shows is always wonderful, but The Fever is even more exciting because it puts us all together with each other. The show exists differently in every place it goes. It’s not always the same story that comes through. Sometimes there are different points of resonance or connection. We thought we understood everything about the show, but in fact the show is always revealing itself in new ways. We’re really excited to be coming to Abu Dhabi!
600 Highwaymen – The Fever premieres in Abu Dhabi on Nov 24.
Click here for video trailers and detailed information on the performance.