The latest project from Seattle Immersive Theatre takes place in “an undisclosed, secret location.” Originally planned for a site in West Seattle, the show is now shifted to a SoDo warehouse, according to creator Julia Nardin. Ticket buyers are emailed the location after purchase. Nardin hopes the audience for “Dump Site” are adventurous types who want to experience something outside of the ordinary with an intimate group. SIT estimates the average audience will be 15 people. Given that the show’s plot deals with a character investigating a cold case from his youth, and uncovering some grisly secrets along the way, that group should expect some things to go bump in the dark.
Let’s talk about “site-specific” drama – why is this type of performance intriguing for the actors and the audience?
Traditional venues are safe. You’re sitting in an enclosed, dark space, surrounded by other people – it’s easy to start feeling complacent when the world of the play has clear physical boundaries that you know nobody is going to cross. There’s a diffusion of emotional responsibility. You can detach. With site-specific, immersive performances, you strip that all away and the boundaries become murkier. Murky is dangerous. Murky is fun.
You’re aiming for an audience of 15 or so. Most theaters want to fill 100 to 200 seats a night or more. What some of the challenges of playing to this small a group?
Smaller numbers allow us to create a more intimate, customizable experience for our audience. We can incorporate details that would otherwise go unnoticed because we’re inviting them to explore and interact with what we’ve built for them. Dump Site has the potential to be very tactile, very complex if people decide they’re brave enough to go down that particular rabbit hole. How this affects our budget is the only real disadvantage we’ve encountered. We could theoretically charge more, but spiking ticket prices would conflict with the company’s mission to make shows as accessible as we can without hemorrhaging money.
What inspired you to pick a murder dump site as your topic?
A few years ago, Huffington Post did a piece on a photographer who’d set out to take a series of pictures documenting all the different dump sites in the Pacific Northwest where serial killers had abandoned their victims. His name is Stephen Chalmers and the project was called Unmarked, even though each photograph is named for the victim who was found there. The juxtaposition between the natural beauty of the locations and the violent history attached to them really unsettled me at the time, and I realized that sort of visceral reaction would make a great premise for a play.
So is the plot of “Dump Site” based on any specific murder?
Our case isn’t based on any one incident. It borrows from a few but the material itself is fictional – I hope.
As you … and the actors … prepare, what is the biggest surprise for you at your secret site?
We’re learning how to rehearse in the dark. That’s a little terrifying, as it probably should be.
What’s the suggested apparel for a night out at “Dump Site”?
Pacific Northwestern birdwatching attire. Flannel’s great for this play, so are galoshes, but we recommend that people dress for the weather even though they’re going to be inside. If it’s cold, bundle up in layers. Don’t shy away from wool. If it’s sweltering, obviously you should ignore my advice and wear whatever makes you comfortable. The best thing about spring in Seattle is that you never really know what the weather is going to do.
“Dump Site” opens April 30 and plays Thursday through Sundays through June 7. The $35 ticket is available through strangertickets.com. Once purchased, an address and directions to the venue (free parking available) are emailed to the ticket buyer.