Ensemble-based Sandbox Theatre unveils “This Is a World to Live In”

Sandbox Theatre is throwing a rager in a 22,000 square foot retail space, and you’re invited.

Actors Kristina Fjellman and Derek Lee rehearse on Tuesday for The Sandbox Theatre's

Juliet Farmer

Actors Kristina Fjellman and Derek Lee rehearse on Tuesday for The Sandbox Theatre’s “This Is A World to Live In”, directed by Matthew Glover. Glover took over an empty space in Minneapolis’ City Center Mall to create the Any Warhol-inspired show.

Joe Kellen

By the time you finish reading the second paragraph of this story, partner up with someone close by. You’re going to create a scene.

It has to contain 30 seconds of silence and an iconic historical quote, and you each have to repeat a similar gesture 10 times. Are you ready? You’ve got 16 minutes.

Okay, you don’t actually have to do this. But for the cast members of Sandbox Theatre’s “This Is a World to Live In,” instructions like that are a way of life.

Sandbox Theatre, founded in 2005, focuses on creating new work without starting with a script. The company develops pieces as a group, starting with a basic concept for a show’s subject and then building on its idea with characters and scenes created through exercises like the one above.

“It helps to make stuff that’s movement-based and doesn’t rely on standing around and talking,” company member Matthew Glover said.

In the case of “This Is a World to Live In,” Sandbox started with the concept of Andy Warhol’s Factory. They developed characters based on Warhol and the artists he associated with to examine ego and the art world.

In order to give their audience a universe as grand as Warhol’s, they’re doing the show in a massive retail space in the Minneapolis City Center.

“We had 22,000 square feet to work with,” Glover said.

The retail space where Sandbox installed its set had previously been dormant. Now it holds what cast member Derek Lee Miller calls a “choreographed party.”

Only 30 people are allowed in on each of the 16 nights, and they get to freely explore the space, which the company has converted into a surreal art gallery.

“This Is a World to Live In” follows a troupe of artists and their ring leader, the mysterious Warhol-esque Matthew. They’re throwing a party for the first public showing of his newest work. The only problem is that Matthew is nowhere to be found.

Filled with Ikea couches, musical instruments, a badminton court, and art that the cast created, the production gives its audience a detailed world where they can await Matthew’s arrival. The characters interact with the audience through improvisation and let their own stories unfold as the night continues.

To say the least, anyone who works with Sandbox has to learn to write on their feet. In fact, the company expects every cast member to contribute to all aspects of the production, whether helping to build the set or creating new material to freshen up the play.

Sam Landman, a newcomer to the group, said this way of working is inspiring and a little scary.

“As the new guy, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but I like to think I bring something different to the mix,” he said. “The process of creating the show was a little jarring, but it was a challenge, and a good one.”

Perhaps the most difficult thing about working in this style is that it necessitates accepting a lot of failure. Glover said there were points in the rehearsal process where he felt like he couldn’t do anything right. Director Ryan Hill put this into perspective in a text message to Glover.

“Jesus Christ, no one asked you to do anything right. You just have to care,” Hill wrote.

That’s all the theater ever asks of its participants. According to Glover, failure is the first step toward creating something great.

“We trust each other to work hard and make something together,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”

 

What: “This Is a World to Live In”
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Monday; times and dates vary; Oct. 25-Nov. 16
Where: Minneapolis City Center, Suite 165, 30 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis
Cost: $20; pay-what-you-can for the first three performances