We Players One of Seven Companies Producing Groundbreaking Immersive Theater

We Players is thrilled to announce that it has been named as one of seven companies around the world creating groundbreaking immersive theatre

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The brainchild of artistic director Ava Roy, We Players was founded in 2000 out of Stanford University. This Bay Area-based company produces classical works in site-specific settings, drawing on the energy of the natural environment to break down barriers between language and audience. Drawing on the fundamental philosophies of “place,” “choice” (each audience member determines his own vantage point), “movement” (the audience follows the action throughout the space) and “community,” We Players sheds innovative light on very old works.  — KC Wright

KQED: The Government Shuts Down Art in San Francisco

Macbeth Presido 14

Lauren Chavez, of the We Players theater group, had to send this message to ticket holders, who still don’t know where or if the show will go on: “Our current production ofMacbeth is built very carefully and conscientiously into Fort Point, the Civil War era fortress beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. For over a year we have been integrating our work into that unique physical, sonic and energetic landscape. Because of the government shutdown we have been blocked from our stage, our most prominent scene partner and creative inspiration.”


Shutdown may mean ‘Macbeth’s’ last hour upon the stage


“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers – for he today that shares this play with me will be my brother,” she said. “And gentlemen in Congress now abed, will think themselves accursed and hold their manhoods cheap!”

It was a fitting introduction to the start of a fifth week of “Macbeth” performances by the city’s We Players, who hadn’t planned to be in the Presidio.

The power struggles and ruthless ambition they often depict played out in real life this week when the federal government shutdown closed the National Park Service’s Fort Point – the interactive stage at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge where they had rehearsed and charted out each scene for nearly a year.

In just a few days, the cast and crew had to find a new location, while reshuffling an elaborate presentation in which the audience had followed the ranging actors around the fort.

Their partners in the Park Service helped them finagle a new setting at the Main Post, which is operated by the Presidio Trust and still open during the shutdown.


We Players featured in American Theatre Magazine’s July 2013 cover story on immersive theatre


Though the experience was carefully curated, with viewers herded from scene to scene, individual vantage points made for experiential differences. “Even though you’re moving as a group, the spaces we chose were multidimensional,” Roy notes. “I’m staging things way off in the distance, on a cliff above your head. We’re challenging audiences to expand their awareness and perspectives and look above and behind them, below them, off in the distance. People can choose their perspectives, whether they get close to the actor or move farther back.”

We floated like spectral observers, immersed in the fantasy


In sum, We Players’ Odyssey on Angel Island took an intelligent spin on Homer’s Odyssey that was custom-fitted to its location, using ritual and participation to create a compelling dramatic production from a non-theatrical story. The OAI exploited theater’s inclination toward memory and discovery to recast Odysseus’ adventures within a historical past. Making use of Angel Island’s picturesque architectural remains and fraught but important history, the production blended theater with forensics, re-enactment with archaeology. Despite the audience’s best efforts to catch up with the warrior, Odysseus’ exploits had always already occurred, leaving only traces for our guide, Telemachus, to discover and follow through inquiry or exploration. Constructed out of events familiar from even cursory knowledge of the Odyssey, the OAI worked carefully around—as it engaged closely with—Homeric epic. In so doing, it was a worthy inheritor of a theatrical tradition forged in fifth-century Athens, but was very much present and alive in the San Francisco Bay.”

We Players Best of the Bay, San Francisco Magazine


“The We Players have been turning public spaces into impromptu playhouses for more than a decade (last year was Hamlet on Alcatraz), but in May, the group presented its most audacious performance yet: a five-hour roving rendition of The Odyssey on Angel Island, wherein the audience is conscripted into the story to cavort with mythical monsters against the backdrop of the San Francisco skyline. With a piece of theater that could leave you grass-stained, sunburned, and in the market for a bronze chest plate, We Players didn’t just break the fourth wall, it toppled the whole playhouse.”


SF Bay Gaurdian’s BEST OF THE BAY 2011 Editors Pick


We Players named Best Site-Specific Classicists

(a category invented specifically for WE!)

It turns out the editor’s picks are extra special – the Guardian wrote a full paragraph about WE:

“This year marks the end of We Players’ three-year collaboration with the National Parks    Service on Alcatraz Island. The project showcased the island’s scenic isolation in a number of  artistic and community-building endeavors. The stage company’s 2010 marathon production of Hamlet was a tour de force of site-specificity, taking actors and audiences all over the island, including areas normally off-limits to the public. In their imaginative stagings of MacbethHamlet, and Iphigenia, as well as their ongoing art exhibitions for, by, and about incarcerated juveniles and adults, the Players highlight themes of isolation, incarceration, justice, and redemption. They wield their art as a catalyst rather than as nostalgic revival. Their Alcatraz residency ends in the fall. In 2012, it partners with the California Parks Service to stage The Odyssey on Angel Island.”

WE in the New York TImes


“Ms. Roy was invited to be the first artist-in-residence on the island in November 2008 after Amy Brees, the National Park Service’s Alcatraz site supervisor, saw her production of “Macbeth” at Fort Point, the Civil War-era brick-and stone structure tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge.  That “Macbeth,” with its closing sword fight on the roof, bridge footlights casting stark shadows and a full moon in the distance, was “the most amazing theater I had ever been to in my life,” Ms. Brees said.  “The Park Service is interested in provoking people to think about these places and their meanings,” she said. “At Alcatraz, those themes are justice, punishment, crime, redemption.”