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Keep Your Phones On at BAM's House/Divided logo
A scene from House/Divided
(© James Gibbs)
Encouraging your audience to keep their phones turned on during a show? Isn't that a major taboo?

Not when it comes to The Builders Association. For their new work, House/Divided, running at Brooklyn Academy of Music from October 24 to 27, the innovative theater company will invite audience members to hold their smart phones up to the stage for an even deeper view of the videos and projections that permeate the production. "A lot of our fans are interested in pointing their phones at the stage, and those are the people we are catering to," says co-scenic designer John Cleater.

Written by Moe Angelos and James Gibbs, and directed by Marianne Weems, the piece is a look at the current mortgage crisis through the lens of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. In it, actors will alternate between staged scenes from the classic Depression-era novel and stories of contemporary housing foreclosure and finance. In doing so, the cast will inhabit, abandon, repurpose, and ultimately destroy a multi-story home that has been built on stage.

Throughout the show, video screens will augment the set. However, audience members that can use Layar, a smart phone application that specializes in something called "augmented reality," will be able see something more. By merely using the app and pointing their smart phones at the stage during two particular sequences, they'll be able to view additional layers of graphic design that won't be visible on the stage itself, creating a three-dimensional effect.

The first sequence represents the rain storm in The Grapes of Wrath and the second represents the stock market flood, which coincides on stage with former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "The video content becomes more and more intense throughout the final scene. By the end, you can't even see your phone's screen," says Cleater.

But what happens if you don't want to use your phone, or even worse – don't have one? "Those people won't be missing anything if they don't use them," Cleater points out. "If they're not into it, hopefully they won't be distracted."

Can't get to BAM and are curious about the show's aesthetic? Check out this video for more information.