Forget traditional theater: A local troupe looks to perform in unorthodox locations, starting with the Baby Bar

click to enlarge Sid Al-Thumani is taking live theater into unexpected places. - DEREK HARRISON PHOTO
Derek Harrison photo
Sid Al-Thumani is taking live theater into unexpected places.

It has long been the standard routine when you go to see a play: You walk into the theater, you find your seat, you stay there for a couple hours and you keep quiet.

But what about wandering into your favorite watering hole one weekend and happening upon a performance of an original theater piece? Well, order a drink and take in the show.

This Friday night you can do just that: A 10-minute, one-act play called Reflexion will be staged in the tiny Baby Bar, and performed three times over the course of the evening. It's being directed by Sid Al-Thumali, who is staging the play under the auspices of a new troupe he's calling the Traveling Theater Company for Wayward Artist, which is looking to do thought-provoking performance art in unorthodox spaces.

"I'm really interested in taking this to places where theater normally wouldn't happen," says Sid (he prefers to go by that mononym). "And I really want to highlight works of people of color and LGBT people, because I fit in both those camps."

Sid, 26, was born in Seattle and raised in Saudi Arabia, his father's native country, and he moved back to America in 2013 to attend Gonzaga. He says he originally wanted to explore a major in journalism or literature, but it was an acting class that redirected his focus toward theater.

Reflexion will be the first performance from the Traveling Theater Company and likely the first performance of its kind in the 25-person-capacity Baby Bar, and Sid says he became enamored with the bar when it hosted a photo shoot for another play he directed. He explains that the layout and design of the Baby Bar actually echoes themes within Reflexion — not just in the close quarters of the space, but in the wall of mirrors on the back wall, which will reflect the audience back at themselves.

"What drew me to the Baby Bar is the intimacy of it," Sid says. "It will draw the audience closer to what's happening onstage. It makes the actors hyper-aware of the audience."

Written by fellow Gonzaga alum Art Por Díaz, Reflexion is a domestic drama in microcosm, the short but probing study of the deteriorating relationship between a mother and her college-aged son as they're analyzed by their respective therapists. It weaves the past and present together as the characters meditate on their fractured home life — his troubled adolescence, her turbulent marriage — and how they've drifted apart over the years.

Whereas most conventional narratives climax with confrontations or outbursts, Reflexion instead ends with a shared moment of silence, which should resonate more completely in a smaller space.

"I hope the person seeing this play hears what they need to," playwright Díaz said in a press release, "that it speaks to them and are willing to listen and is encouraged to take a movement in their life."

"It's like a Chinese finger trap," Sid explains. "The further you strain away, the tighter the pull. But when you come together, it releases the hold on you. If they don't face their greatest fear, which is forgiveness, it's over. There's no relationship."

And considering the weighty subject matter of the play, is he concerned about the Friday night bar crowd not understanding the project, or about the possibility of drunken interruptions? That's really all part of the thrill.

"That's the beauty of found-space theater," Sid says. "I told my design team to expect anything to happen. Don't be upset if things don't go the way they should. Anticipate everything." ♦

Reflexion • Fri, Aug. 30 at 8, 8:40 and 9:20 pm • $5 • 21+ • Baby Bar • 827 W. First

Norman Rockwell's America @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 12
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About The Author

Nathan Weinbender

Nathan Weinbender is the Inlander's Music & Film editor. He is also a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly film review show Movies 101 since 2011.