Fall 2010 Guide: OBERON: The Second Stage of the Twenty-First Century


On the fringe of Harvard Square, OBERON is the hottest new destination for club theater. Diane Paulus refers to OBERON as the "second stage of the twenty-first century."

On the fringe of Harvard Square, OBERON is the hottest new destination for club theater. Diane Paulus refers to OBERON as the "second stage of the twenty-first century."

The audience experience has been at the core of Diane Paulus’s thinking as the artistic leader of the A.R.T., and the establishment of OBERON is one of her main initiatives as she furthers the A.R.T.’s core mission to expand the boundaries of theater. With its dance floor, flexible performance areas, and full bar, OBERON encourages a completely new kind of relationship between audience and performers. Performances there make the audience active participants in the shows, giving them a sense of authorship and importance in the theatrical event, and a change from other theatergoing experiences. The social nightlife experience is integral to the event.

OBERON opened last summer with The Donkey Show, Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner’s disco adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A hedonistic hothouse where feathered divas invite audiences to enter a pulsing fantasy world, The Donkey Show transforms Shakespeare’s enchanted forest into a Studio 54-inspired discotheque. The wild success of The Donkey Show with audiences from eighteen to eighty has made it a fixture at OBERON, and the show now plays every Saturday to packed houses.

In May 2010, the first annual Emerging America Festival—a collaboration among the A.R.T., Huntington Theatre Company, and ICA/Boston—brought the best of club theater from across the country to the OBERON stage.

In addition to offering work from the A.R.T’s main season, OBERON is also a thriving incubator for emerging artists to imagine new projects that could only exist in this non-traditional environment. In addition to regular season programming, over sixty-five different events and more than fifty artists and performance groups brought work to the new space in its first year. This work featured hundreds of local performers including aerialists, beat poets, food artists, tap dancers, gender-bending sketch troupes, local comedians, hula-hooping burlesquers, and pop-and-lock human statues to name but a few.

The A.R.T. opens its 2010/11 season in OBERON with Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, featuring singer and songwriter Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame as the magnetic Emcee. This production will transform OBERON into a perfectly marvelous Weimar-era Klub where anything can happen.

In February, OBERON will be home to the world premiere production of Prometheus Bound, an outcry against tyranny written by Tony and Grammy Award-winning playwright Steven Sater with music by Grammy Award-winning System of a Down lead singer Serj Tankian. Staged by A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, this dynamic new musical adaptation of Aeschylus’s ancient Greek tragedy will immerse the audience in an environment that has the Dionysian energy and rebelliousness of a rock concert. Most nights, if you walk down Mass. Ave. in Harvard Square, you will see a line of people waiting to get inside OBERON. Join them; you might not know what you will find inside, but you are sure to be engaged in the theatrical and social event that is at the heart of every OBERON experience.

Ryan McKittrick is the A.R.T.’s Dramaturg. Ariane Barbanell is the A.R.T’s Director of Special Projects.

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