Voyeur Theatre Collective Brings Interactive Performances Abroad

You enter an Evanston apartment on a Friday night. At first, it feels like a typical college party. Music is blasting, the bar is stocked, and people are mingling. Instead of dancing with your friends and chatting up someone nearby as you typically might though, you sit back and watch as art unfolds around you. You’re right in the action. This is the wonder of the Voyeur Theatre Collective.

VTC is all about innovation. The group has about 40 students and brings together unique perspectives from their diverse range of majors to create a nontraditional theater experience for their audiences.

“We’re trying to break down the walls of what traditional theater is and allow the audience to interact with the actors as the show is happening,” VTC’s Organization Director Wesley Mann said. “We’re not afraid to try different things, push the boundaries, and see how far we can go with this new form of art.”

VTC was founded two years ago by Northwestern students Russell Kahn and Isabella Mehiel, and since then it has seen huge growth. Their first year, the collective’s sole project was creating a spring show, ENTRAINMENT, which followed a group of college students before, during and after a party. This year, though, it worked to produce many smaller performance events, a music video, and their recent production of NEXT LEVEL, which takes place in the world of a fictional virtual reality video game.

Aside from an increase in the sheer volume of work they are producing, the number of participants is growing as well.

“We have a very strong inclusive policy,” Mann said. “Anyone who is willing to put in the time is welcome into our community.”

Each of VTC’s productions combines aspects of traditional theater with performance art and original music and film projections. The collective uses these creative spins on traditional theater in the hopes of keeping it appealing and approachable for younger generations.

“One of our taglines is ‘Overstimulation is the new stasis,’” Mann said. “We’re so used to being able to scroll through Instagram at lightning speed that to sit at a play for an hour and a half doesn’t capture our attention in the same way that it might have for other generations.”

Their unusual shows allow them to discuss important topics in an engaging and relatable way.

“A lot of the themes we work with are things that we think our generation is concerned with,” he said. “It’ll range from things as sensitive as sexual assault to things that are jovial like the moment you first see your friend after a long time of not seeing them.”

VTC’s take on theater is so unique that it was invited to share its art with people from all over the globe at the George Town Festival in Malaysia this August.

Fifteen members will make the trek and present a compilation of scenes from previous showsl. Alumni from past years’ ensembles will rejoin the team to help bring these scenes to life. The collective is still on the search for funding for the trip and is accepting donations through their website.

Mann said VTC is excited for the opportunity to share its work and connect with new people.

“Theater is the most powerful art form,” Mann said. “You have the ability to look another person in the eyes as they’re creating art. Sometimes it’s strange; sometimes it’s beautiful. It can make you angry or happy. It’s an ability to connect with another human.”