My wife and I had the most wonderful and unexpected night out last night – a fabulous night of poetry and music, just a mile or so down the road, in someone’s living room. A few months ago, on a Sunday afternoon, I saw a great singer-songwriter perform in someone else’s living room. A few months before that I saw a sort of jazz/hip-hop/poet perform in some else’s living room. In between all of this, our own Newton Nomadic Theater has presented six different plays in five different living rooms. What’s going on here?
All of these events seem to be part of a little-known, but growing phenomenon – people who open up their homes a few times a year to function as mini-performing arts venues for all sorts of shows that are open to the public.
I stumbled on this phenomenon two years ago when we first came up with the idea of bringing one of our theater productions to a private home. I first floated the idea here on Village 14 and asked if anyone would be willing to host a theater production in their home. I was contacted by Steve Siegel and Theresa St. John. They said they’d love to have us and that they had occasionally hosted concerts in their living room.
We brought the ghost story “Turn of the Screw” to their home and those two intimate living-room performances were among the best, and most intense of the whole run of the play. We’ve since brought three more plays to the Siegel-St John home. Last night their home hosted two poets ( Ryk McIntyre and Diana Whitney) and in between the Newtones, the award winning Newton South acapella group performed. Once the scheduled show ended, the music continued with a few high school musical prodigies taking turns at the piano for the next hour or so.
Last spring our theater brought “A Picasso” to Henry Finch and Pat Robinson’s house in Waban for two nights. Like the Siegel-St. John family, this wasn’t their first arts-in-the-living-room experience. They too occasionally have musical performances in their home and I’ve since been back there for a wonderful concert by a singer-songwriter.
There are plenty of big houses in Newton that are well suited to this kind of thing. Even more interestingly, Kate Mason and Jim Emerson, live in a modest house in Lower Falls. At first glance you’d think there’s no way this would work there. Yet they’ve been hosting 4 or 5 musical events a year in their home. They open up the doors between two rooms and pack people in for wonderfully cozy shows. For their shows they invite the guests to bring something to eat or drink and so they combine a pot-luck party with a musical performance.
We’ve brought our theater to three other homes in Waban, Upper Falls and Newtonville.
So those are six Newton homes that I’ve stumbled onto that occasionally host public performing arts but I’m certain that they’re quite a few more around town. If you know of other folks that host home shows, post the details below. If you’d consider hosting a theater production in your home, contact me ([email protected]). If you’d like to get on the mailing lists for future musical performances at the three homes I’ve mentioned above, send me an email ([email protected]) and I’ll pass it along to all three.
For the audience these living room shows are wonderfully intimate. For the homeowners, these nights are like having a really interesting party with great entertainment. For the artists, these home shows are a zero-overhead way of performing and reaching new audiences. I’d love to see more of this around Newton, lots more.