Theatre is, by nature, a voyeuristic art. Sitting in a dark space, we eavesdrop as people play out their lives. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable when a show breaks that imaginary fourth wall. At other times we're treated like co-conspirators, invited to spy on privacies not for general consumption. Here are a few examples.
The burlesque numbers in this Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim classic about stripper Gypsy Rose Lee were eye-popping on Broadway in the late 50s -- especially because we first heard Lee's slinky Let Me Entertain You finale as a cute little-girl song for her kid sister.
In the John Kander/Fred Ebb Broadway original, a distorted mirror behind the scenes in the Kit Kat Klub made the audience part of the seedy establishment, where we were turned on by cross-dressing staff and lascivious musical numbers.
Another Kander and Ebb musical, this "musical vaudeville" spoke directly to the audience, implicating viewers in the celebrity frenzy surrounding murders and high-profile trials in 20s Chicago.
John Krizanc's groundbreaking script and Richard Rose's fascinating staging in a historic Toronto building had an audience of 30, who chose which character to follow -- and therefore which scene they saw -- in a tale of politics, seduction and revenge set in Fascist Italy.
A quartet of authors (Sally Clark, John Mighton, Robin Fulford and Daniel MacIvor) collaborated on a Theatre Passe Muraille show in which the audience wandered through an institution that conducted long-term sleep experiments and screwed with people's minds. You could be lectured by a scientist or harangued by a patient as you walked through every space in the building, including the men's washroom.
PAULA AND KARL (2001)
In Hillar Liitoja's you-are-there show, viewers were like invisible guests watching a tense evening in the apartment of a pair of codependent sadomasochists. Drawers, closets, even the fridge was available for snooping.