A new groundbreaking, immersive theatre experience will debut in Columbus this month. Broken Bone Bathtub & the Hopeful Healing Hour is a two-show production taking place in a house in historic Columbus.
The production runs March 21-26, and will feature two independent shows taking place in the same venue. Each night, two shows will be performed - one upstairs, and the other downstairs. This means that the audience will be split in half, and the first half will see a show upstairs while the second half sees the show downstairs. Then, after a brief intermission, the audiences switch places. Oh, and one of the shows will take place in a bathtub.
Sound progressive? It is. And it's happening in Columbus, Georgia.
To better understand the unique model of this production and specific style of performance art, we corresponded with the producers and casts of both shows. Continue reading for an intimate look into the process behind each show, the actors involved, and what you can expect from this one-of-a-kind theatre experience.
About Broken Bone Bathtub:
Broken Bone Bathtub is an immersive theatre project taking place inside a bathtub, in an actual home. Conceived, performed and directed by Siobhan O'Loughlin, the one-person show has been performed over 400 times across the nation.
After a serious bike accident, a Siobhan musters up the courage to ask for help, and shares her story, exploring themes of trauma, suffering, human generosity and connection. The audience takes on the role of Siobhan’s close friends; not only listening but sharing in their experiences, and assisting the cast-clad artist in the actual ritual of taking a bath.
Q: What led you to write Broken Bone Bathtub?
Sibhoan: I wrote BBB after breaking my hand in a bike accident. I truly was borrowing bathtubs in my friends' homes all around the city, and when I met up with a friend after one of my baths, he said, "It's like you're on a bathtub tour." And I thought--what if I really was? So I started going through my journal, finding pieces that spoke the strongest about my experience in my cast, and how that might turn into a performance for extremely small audiences. Q: How do you feel the audience's role changes in every performance?
A: The audience's role doesn't actually change. They are cast, quite directly, as my friends, helping me in the bath during my time of need. I tell them about what I've been through, and ask them about what they've been through as well.
Q: Do you find that the audience changes the show for you? In what ways?
A: The show is dependent on the audience's stories, but my story also is the centerfold for the piece. No matter what the audience says or does during the show, they will still leave with an understanding of who I am, what happened to me, why I'm telling this story in the tub, and what I hope will come of it. The WAY it unfolds, however, is different every time--what we talk about, whether we laugh or cry, depends on what the audience brings to the table. Er--bathroom. Q: How has this project specifically impacted your career?
A: Career is a tough word, because I honestly don't know sincerely that I can say I have one. I am a traveling performance artist, driving long distances for little income, unable to afford to live anywhere, because I couldn't afford to pay the rent if I did.
What I would say is that this project has been the crux of my creative journey for the past four years, and while I think that this will be the last year I do it with such earnest, it has certainly connected me to other artists, makers and dreamers across the world. I'm extremely grateful to have had the luxury of being able to pursue it and chase it, even if it didn't lead me to where I wanted it to. Q: What else should audience members know about this work or about you?
A: I would just say to be brave and go ahead and buy a ticket. This show is actually extremely normal. It's friendly and engaging. I've performed it over 430 times, so you can have some sort of belief in your heart that it's good. I promise, even if you don't love it, you'll still feel that it was worthwhile. How could it not be? How many shows in a bathtub have you even seen before, anyway?!
The director and cast of Hopeful Healing Hour. Pictured, from left to right: Austin Sargent, Beth Reeves, and Amanda Rae.
Image courtesy of the production team.
About Hopeful Healing Hour:
Compelled by their personal journeys and motivated by the healing experience of storytelling, two women explore their childhoods and lineages using the lenses they lend to one another. Created by Columbus artists, this devised theatrical experience empowers the audience to choose the unique sequence of each performance, revealing patterns of self-reflection and exploring what happens when we choose vulnerability over isolation.
Our stories are not for us alone.
Hopeful Healing Hour will be directed by Austin Sargent. Artistic Liaisons for the performance are Darien Torbert and Natalia Temesgen. Our interview below is with the cast, Amanda Rae and Beth
Q: What led to the development of this unique theatrical experience?
Amanda: I was introduced to Siobhan and asked to produce Broken Bone Bathtub in Seattle before I moved to Columbus last March, but the timing didn't work out with our move. Siobhan reached out to me a few months ago and said "I want to do my first ever Southern Tour, do you think you could produce my show in Columbus?" and I was so excited by the idea. Instead of hosting it in BBB's traditional sense (asking community members to host in their homes) I brought the idea of producing a local show to Austin Sargent who found us the perfect historic house, and agreed to direct a devised show solely based on this idea that I had.
Beth: I was asked by the beautiful and talented Austin Sargent and Amanda Rae to come along with them on this transparent journey of story. I was not only honored, but thankful that they noticed my art. I feel I'm in the early stages of being a storyteller, which is more important to me than entertaining. I would rather enlighten rather than to entertain.
Q: How did you two connect?
Amanda: I didn't known much about what I wanted the show to be, but I knew I wanted to perform, and I knew I wanted to do it with another woman who had an incredible story to share. Austin had just introduced Beth and I that week prior, and it was like there was this understanding between us when we met, "I see you, you're like me, you've been through a lot and you have a lot to share with the world". So Austin and I invited her to do the project over coffee, and we were overwhelmed when she said yes, and we started sharing our stories. Right there, in the Starbucks, for hours. Once we started we couldn't stop. I can't imagine a better team of people to share this experience with.
Beth: I have known Austin for some for a few years, he's a great friend of mine. He kept telling me about how wonderful Amanda was. I said I have to meet her. Once I met her, there was something familiar about her ...I saw myself ...we just connected. I'm so happy that I will know the both of them for the rest of my life.
Q: The promotional material for the show suggest the audience has a role in the progression of each performance. Can you speak to that? How will that work?
Amanda: We can't share too much, but ultimately we very much want this evening of theater to feel like what it is: Inviting people into a home. They're are as much a part of this process as we are, with some boundaries and clear roles to play.
Beth: If you think of it - theatre, story - is somewhat a ritual... it's sacred. In African storytelling, the audience is a part of the performance. This goes back since the beginning of time. As for this production, the audience will represent something very important. POWERFUL! In order for our stories to heal, we need the audience, just as it is to have others to help you begin your healing process. It takes a village.
Q: In what ways have you each been personally challenged by developing this work?
Amanda: I've been trying to start some form of a solo show for roughly 5 years, and it's difficult to just get started, it can be so isolating. This is a process about feeling vulnerable and being okay with knowing how vulnerable you are. It's often overwhelming, and yet wonderful. It's a unique challenge to stand with your story revealed to the world - your joy, pain, grief, trauma, all of it - and remain strong and confident in who you are as a person and a performer. Sharing this experience together helps because we feel that we have a partner to go through this process with. It's always been about balance and lending each other a lens through we can feel less alone.
Beth: I'm sharing my journal with the community. I'm the most private person that you will meet. Wow! My journal is my privacy, my heart. I'm a little nervous, but it's necessary.
Q: What else should audience members know about this work or about you?
Amanda: Art needs to be accessible, in every sense of the word: Financially, physically emotionally. Theater is just like every other art form. It's a way to deconstruct and analyze what it means to be human in a whole new way. Both of us are very committed to theater as Storytelling first. It can be anything you want it to be, it doesn't need to fit in a box or even a traditional theater. It just has to be honest. Your story is not for you alone.
Beth: What will you bring? What do you need a healing from? This is, to me, not only a performance but a healing circle... Amanda and I just happen to be sharing our stories. I'm so thankful to her and Austin for caring and respecting my journey. I was created to tell this story. ◼︎
If You Go:
When: March 21 - 26
Where: Columbus, Georgia in a secret location revealed after ticket purchase.