Audience reaction to “57 Hours in the House of Culture”

The “wreckage” of the theatre. The audience entered to find chairs overturned and the space littered with programs (in Russian), water bottles and candy wrappers.

The goal of the recent Studio Roanoke production of my script about the Moscow theatre siege — indeed, the goal of the script itself — was to make people feel like they were really there.

So the audience entered the lobby to find . . . a video of the actual production of “Nord-Ost” playing on a television screen . . . still photos of the Moscow production were posted . . . audience members were handed a program that was in Russian . . .and two soldiers in Russian military garb blocked the doors until showtime — when they quickly donned gas masks, threw open the doors and ran into the theatre space.

As audience members followed, they found cast members “dead” around the theatre . . . chairs overturned, and the floor littered with debris — water bottles, candy wrappers. I am indebted to Kenley Smith, Studio Roanoke’s founding patron and playwright in residence, for helping me visualize all of this, and to director Brian O’Sullivan for pulling it off.

I attended almost every night of the show (my son’s baseball schedule kept me away on two nights.) Most of the audience members I heard from “got” the concept; a few did not. One night, one woman sniffed “they didn’t do a very good job cleaning up the theatre after the last show” and appeared to be completely serious. Another night, one audience member, on his way out, started picking up the trash!

Other reactions: I’m told one audience member wiped away tears on opening night when Olga was shot. And I was there another night when a woman suffered a panic attack as soon as she entered the space and declined to see the show.

Here’s a summary of some other feedback that people have posted on Facebook:

Just came back from “57 Hours in the House of Culture” by Dwayne Yancey at Studio Roanoke. Very experimental, dark and haunting, leaves you wanting to talk about it afterward.
Mike Allen (the arts writer for The Roanoke Times, a noted science fiction writer in his own right, and an occasional actor in some of my pieces)

57 Hours in the House of Culture at Studio Roanoke lived up to the hype! Bravo to playwright Dwayne Yancey, director Brian O’Sullivan and the cast and crew, including but not limited to Kelly Anglim, Owen Merritt, Gary Reid, Blake Lipscomb, Joel Gruver and Charles Alan Reynolds III. Catch the last show tomorrow if you can get in!
— Chris Shepard

57 HOURS IN THE HOUSE OF CULTURE was spellbinding! Great script by Dwayne Yancey. Outstanding performances by all of the ensemble cast. My especial favorites: Joel Gruver, Diane Heard, Heather Sexton and Owen Merritt. Many kudos to Director, Brian O’Sullivan; you had me from the get-go!
— Patrick Kennerly

Last night I watched 57 Hours in the House of Culture at Studio Roanoke by local, Dwayne Yancey who did a superb job with the script! Brian O’Sullivan’s direction was excellent and the cast did a great job! It was great to see some theatre friends I have not seen in awhile! Blake Lipscomb, Diane Heard, Gary Reid, Heather Sexton, James Honaker, Joel Gruver, Kelly Anglim, and Owen Merritt. Come see this intense, unique drama!
— Gracie Moore

Dwayne Yancey’s “57 Hours in the House of Culture” was incredible. If you didn’t see it, you missed out!

— Julia Moran

Congrats to the cast of “57 Hours in the House of Culture” which closes today, the entire cast gave great performances and did this moving piece justice.
— Johanna Cooper

Dear friends in the Roanoke area, take heed… something amazing is going on at Studio Roanoke… if you want to get me something nice for my birthday this year, please simply buy yourself a ticket to see 57 Hours in the House of Culture by Dwayne Yancey, directed by Brian O’Sullivan
The look on your face at the end will be my gift.
— Charles Alan Reynolds III (who, in full disclosure, was our sound man for the show)

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