AS220 is thrilled to announce a partnership with the Psych Drama Company, who will be presenting their inaugural season at our Blackbox Theater. We are very excited about the opportunity to bring immersive, experimental and psychological theater to the community.
Tickets for each show are $25. Save with a discounted 2020 Season Ticket Package, which is available for $66 by contacting The Psych Drama Company directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 774-259-4379.
Psych Drama Company Artistic Director Wendy Lippe has been performing and acting her entire life. She grew up attending a performance art high school, and then attended a BFA program at Syracuse with a concentration in musical theater. It was only after she transferred to University of Michigan that she truly began to blossom as a performer and director, participating extensively at U Michigan. She continued to perform after moving to Boston for her psychology PhD. She found overlap between her day job as a Clinical Psychologist and her love for theater – and grew increasingly inspired by her work. “Whether [you’re] working with a patient or a character, you are trying to get inside another person’s head – what motivates them, challenges them, fears, desires…this is the same work! It just manifests differently.”
Wendy’s seminal moment came at a conference in Sicily.
What prompted you to create the Psych Drama Company?
“I was at a conference getting CEUs in Sicily- psychoanalysis & Greek tragedy. We saw Ajax and Phaedra in Greek amphitheater – a fantastic performance, outdoors in the summer – then we went to a beautiful old stone building, and psychologists gave talks and the group sat around having unbelievably rich conversations about psychology and theater and characters and psychoanalysis. I thought, where are the actors and directors? Why are just the professionals alone having this conversation? Wheels started turning. Where are the companies that have these kinds of integrative performances, with theater and psychology professionals? At this conference, I birthed the idea. I’m going to continue to perform for other companies and create my own.”
How does your work as a Clinical Psychologist inform your dramatic pieces?
It allows me to delve into the character’s psyche, so that the theater company gets people talking about their own lives and their own relationships through post-show talk backs. We get people to start thinking about their lives in ways they might not have.
Tell me a little bit about the post show discussions – are you ever surprised by what the audience members take away from a piece?
Discussions usually go on for at least an hour, and typically we can’t get audience members to leave. We have some really famous psychologists attend every production. Most post-show discussion leaders from Harvard med school. All of the names on the Psych Drama Company website are very well recognized psychologists – people who are keynote speakers at international conferences and have multiple books. We would love to expand our network to mental health professionals in the Providence area. We teach a wide array of psychological topics, encouraging the audience to reflect on their own lives, relationships. We have mental health professionals involved in the creative team – we talk about the text, consult on character arch, deal with alcoholism and mental health issues with actors trying to develop characters. The professionals can be involved in any way shape or form that they choose. The post show discussions are more obvious to the audience, but we engage experts in the field throughout the production.
Social media has given us so much, but also robbed us of a lot – that in-person time, deeper reflection. Our aim is to foster IN PERSON experiences, not just watching as spectators. Our post show discussion leaders understand our mission and engage the audience. We want these conversations to interest both mental health professionals and the community at large.
Who is your target audience? What kind of person would most enjoy your performances?
Our goal is to bring performance and art to the general public. We are interested in reaching lay people. If anything, technology is making us more impulsive, less reflective. The world is changing. The brains of young children are changing as a result of technology, and not in good ways. Our goal is to reach the community at large – can we slow time down, and [get you] out of your home and off your computer to come talk to us. Let’s all hang out and talk, experience a wonderful piece of literature with professional actors and directors and watch theater of [the same] quality you’d see in NYC, while having an experience that takes you away from the technology and into deep meaningful conversations. We’re chasing that connection experience – It’s that thing where you stay up all night having a conversation.
What prompted you to bring your performances to the city of Providence?
We travel to all different cities and look for different spaces that could suit our productions. We are an immersive, experimental theater company. We want the audience to interact and lose the 4th wall completely – no boundary between actors and audience. Netflix and Amazon are our competition. Immersive, interactive theater was something from 60s & 70s – it’s not new, but having a renaissance.
As soon as we walked into AS220, we thought, here’s a space [where we] could do some wonderful work. Here’s a very culturally sophisticated area – let’s give it a shot and do a full season.
Do the three pieces of the 2020 season (At Home at the Zoo, Stage Kiss and Gods of Carnage) share similar themes? How were these pieces chosen for this year?
The pieces of the 2020 season all share themes that I was struggling with in my own life. At first, it wasn’t apparent, but then I realized that all 3 shows explore themes of illusions in relationships, disappointment in relationships, self-deception, reflections on the nature of love, primal and civilized parts of self, and authenticity. Each show approaches these themes in very different ways.
Is there anything else you would like us to share regarding these performances?
All of the post show discussion leaders are incredible, but especially Stephen Cooper & Justin Newmark. They are thrilled to participate, and have so many books published. They are both at the top of their field, but so approachable.