Artistic Fraud’s wandering drive-in production is a collection of monologues set in St. John’s scenes
Artistic Fraud’s new production, “The Other Side of This,” is hard to define using only a few words.
When someone buys a ticket, they receive a map of locations and become part of a motorcade on a scavenger hunt for seven different make-shift drive-ins. Once there, they tune to seven different FM radio frequencies, transmitting seven newly written monologues by seven different local writers.
As creative lead with the writers on the … show? ... Robert Chafe gave only a few directions to the writers, one of which was simply to picture a single person parked in a car, listening to their story.
“We knew because of what we were proposing to do and because of public health protocols that people weren’t going to be able to leave their cars,” Chafe said. “We needed a certain kind of location, which was a parking lot that was big enough to hold X amount of cars, that was easily accessible at night, that was in a certain geographical area and also that had some sort of focal point.”
The writers — Chafe, Michael Crummey, Prajwala Dixit, Nomi Fizzle, Santiago Guzmán, Elizabeth Hicks and Bernardine Ann Teraz Stapleton — wrote their pieces to the specific parking lots they chose.
And while they wish to remain mum about the locations, when someone purchases a ticket, they get directions.
Chris Brookes is on the board of directors at Artistic Fraud and took care of much of the technological and recording side of the project. He says the locations will be familiar to most people in the city.
“But very few people have actually gone in there, and almost nobody has gone in there and sat in a car for 10 minutes, doing nothing except just listening and watching outside their windshield,” Brookes said. “What you hear is a slice of someone’s life, a fictional someone, and out the window you get to see what happens in that spot at that hour of night.”
It’s an interface between an emotional fictional story and real-life setting most people usually wouldn’t pay much attention to, Brookes said.
The writers were picked to work with because they knew they’d get back an interesting mix of stories, Chafe said.
“They’re kind of all over the map, but they do sit in this place of contemplation around solitude in one way or another,” he said.
Stapleton says it has been a completely immersive project. And the parking lot she chose is one that is familiar to her.
The story Stapleton wrote was heavily influenced by her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she fostered — and subsequently adopted — a three-year-old beagle she called Georgy Girl after the folky pop song of the same name, performed by the 1960s Australian quartet The Seekers.
“When I first got her, I had never had a dog before and I wasn’t sure what her signals were to go out,” Stapleton said. “So, If I woke up, I just took her outside.”
These late-night walks in the dark as the world stood still were peaceful, she said.
“I’d be out at three and four o’clock in the morning and I promise you … there was a light on in every house,” she said. “Sometimes it was Christmas lights, or little candles, electric candles, flickering TVs. It was sort of like we were all keeping a vigil together and I felt there’s something in the world that is uniting us in this moment.”
The production runs until Sunday.
Stapleton was lucky enough to be in the … audience? … with some good friends on one of the first nights, and said the experience was great.
“It was so much fun,” she said.
Brookes also does documentary work and said in that community, people often talk about driveway moments.
“You’re driving home and something’s on the radio ... and you don’t get out of the car because you don’t want to turn the radio off, you’re right there with it, it’s really strong and it’s grabbed you,” he said. “Each one of these is a driveway moment.
“It struck me, having gone through the thing, I don’t think I’m going to be able to drive past or go past any of these locations again without being brought back into that mindset, without picturing that fictional character there and their situation and what they’re talking about.”
For more information and to find out how to buy tickets for “The Other Side of This,” visit https://artisticfraud.com/.