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The Making of "Houseworld", an Immersive Show
Andrew Hoepfner met us in the sunny living room of the San Damiano Mission, where his show Houseworld is to take place.
"Houseworld is meant to be a kind of yoga for the emotions,” he said.
This immersive show, started last winter in a church-owned home in Flatbush, is
returning to Williamsburg for its second run. Excitement radiated off of Hoepfner as he
led us through the mission, which consists of a cavernous church, a courtyard and a
labyrinthine four-story house.
The decoration of the space was both minimal and yet full of eye-catching items,
many of them antiques. Hoepfner explained, “Special objects are very important to
Houseworld. Objects that provoke mystery and wonder.”
We moved through each level of the house, which Hoepfner told us would be
arranged so that as each person ascends and descends through the different stories they
will also experience a progression in theme and tone. The space boasts several rooms and
a grandiose, spiraling staircase to facilitate such a progression.
Hoepfner led us towards the basement, where we found his collaborative partner
Mike Campbell working with other members of the crew. He turned off his saw and
emerged from between two huge piles of wood. He shook our hands and introduced the
space: “Down here is going to be the base level, the subconscious level.”
Although many expressed concern that the place-based nature of the event might
make it difficult to repeat at a different location, Hoepfner and Campbell were happy to
discover that the show can succesfully manifest in a new space. However, Hoepfner
explained that it’s important for Houseworld to take place in a residential home, because
in his mind this production represents a microcosm of the experience of home.
“Home is where everything happens to you, right?” He queries, “You might have
some of the some of the best experiences of your life and also some of your worst. You
might have your best dreams there. You might decide you hate your parents there.”
Campbell agrees, “We want to get past the surface level and into the underbelly of
the home experience. Everyone has this peaceful veneer that they present to the world.
We thought a lot about how to get beyond that in Houseworld. Here you can ascend and
descend through life’s stages.”
Hoepfner agreed: “We’re interested in the weirdness below the pleasant
domesticity. We see strange things all the time: on the TV, on the stage. Go into a
bedroom, though, and see a strange thing, it resonates so much more deeply.”
During the first run, audience members were allowed to interact freely with the
characters, which included the bathtub guru, the wind, the spirit in the attic, the cook and
many others. No two experiences of Houseworld were the same for any given participant.
By the time the first run of the show was over it had received glowing reviews
from the media and audience members alike. Hoepfner and Cambell realized they had an
opportunity to revive and refine Houseworld, so they started looking for a space where
they could recreate the tone and free-wandering movement of the original show, but
according to Hoepfner, “with more depth.”
There have been a few notable immersive theaters in New York as of late. Sleep
No More was one celebrated example, as well as Queen of the Night, Ziegfield’s
Midnight Frolic, Speakeasy Dollhouse and Then She Fell, to name a few. Houseworld is
another contribution to this list and Hoepfner believes it will continue to hold its own in
"People are and have been making amazing immersive theater,” says Hoepfner,
"Making this show is so exciting because—at least, to my knowledge—we're creating
moments that no one has ever seen before."
We left the space curious as to how Houseworld will reveal itself this time
around, wondering if it will live up to the profundity with which its production team
spoke of it and excited for this seemingly strange and lyrical immersive experience.
Houseworld will run every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from October 8th-
November 21st at the San Damiano Mission at 85 N. 15th Street in Williamsburg,
Brooklyn. Tickets are available through the production’s website, www.houseworld.nyc.
Photo credit: Dylana Dylan and Lippe
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