PCV director: The future of theater is on your smartphone

A woman rides the N train, along one of three routes where the site-specific plays are meant to be listened to on a smartphone. (Photo courtesy of Erin Mee)

By Sabina Mollot

A Peter Cooper Village resident who once directed a play designed to be downloaded as an app and listened to on the Staten Island ferry has recently released a series of plays that, like “Ferry Play,” is meant to be experienced on one’s smartphone.

The new production, “Subway Plays,” is a trilogy of plays that are intended to be listened to on the L, N and 7 trains. Though they can be played anytime, the audio performance should be accompanied by a specific route: either Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens for act one, or Brooklyn or Queens while headed to Manhattan. The site-specific plays, which are told in English, also include other languages such Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Russian and Colombian Spanish that would typically be heard along the route.

The plays come in the form of an app, which costs $2.99 and can be downloaded on an iPhone or Android.

Erin Mee said she first got the idea to do a downloadable play from a Canadian theater company that specialized in what was referred to as “pod plays.” She ultimately decided to refer to her own project as a “smartphone play,” since iPods have mostly gone out of use and she didn’t want people to get confused. Additionally, she stressed that this type of play is different from an old-time radio play or an audio tour one might hear in a museum. This is because it’s site-specific with the sights, sounds and smells of the environment factoring into the story and overall experience.

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PCV director presents play for smartphones

Director Erin Mee (Photo by Leila Satyanath-Mee)

Director Erin Mee (Photo by Leila Satyanath-Mee)

By Sabina Mollot

A Peter Cooper Village director, who’s previously put on plays in untraditional settings, including the swimming pool at Waterside Plaza — is now inviting theater goers to the Staten Island Ferry — but not until they download her play onto their smartphones.

The show, called “Ferry Play,” is an 18-minute audio recording that was designed to be listened to as commuters experience the ride from Manhattan to Staten Island and then back again.

“It’s the largest set ever,” commented Erin Mee, who directed the production, which was written by Jessie Bear, a playwright from Queens who’s also worked with Mee on other projects. A couple of kids in Mee’s building, along with her teenage daughter, were also involved, voicing different characters.

As for the decision to create a downloadable play, Mee said she was inspired by a Canadian company who’d specialized in “pod plays,” essentially plays that were podcasts. But when Mee began working on her project, she realized her work might need to be called something else, because iPods have largely gone out of use, with most people turning to their phones for their entertainment instead.

“So I started calling it a smartphone play, and they seem to get that,” she said.

The “Ferry Play” app can be downloaded for $1.99 onto iPhones or Androids.

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