Good theater is interactive, bringing the audience away from reality and into a story.
New Haven's Lyric Hall Showcase, the area's newest venue for live theater, is all about doing that -- in creative, unique, and often site-specific ways.
The building, located at 827 Whalley Ave., was originally built in 1913 as a vaudeville silent film house. Many renovations and uses (including a automobile repair shop) over the years left the building in disrepair before 2006. That's when current owner John Cavaliere stumbled upon it.
Since then, Cavaliere has renovated the building extensively -- furnishing it with antiques, and furbishing it with custom gilt work. Cavaliere says, "the details you may not notice consciously, but subconsciously the details invoke you with the time, feeling and character of vaudeville."
This feeling is most evident at Lyric Hall's monthly (and often sold out) screening of silent films accompanied by original scores. "When you're sitting there watching the films with the live musicians playing, you realize that this is surround sound at its best," Cavaliere says, adding that "Lyric Hall Showcase is a theater that is theatrical all on its own."
In addition to the monthly silent screenings there's Groove Haven, a dance party featuring live music, guest DJ's and an interactive lightshow.
Upcoming events include a burlesque show called TIKKI-A-GO-GO on September 10 with performances by local surf-music all-stars The Clams. There's also Forgot to Laugh Sideshow and Animation Festival, presenting vaudevillian performances like fire-juggling and sword-eating during the weekend of October 23. On October 27 to the 31, the play Irma Vep will be performed.
The types of performances at Lyric Hall Showcase change just as quickly as its antique furnishings do.
"The building speaks to me and I listen; when theatergoers come here they will most likely bring something new with each visit," Cavaliere says.