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May 26, 2023
The lights dim, as at the start of any theater performance, and the audience leans forward to look through a letter-box slot or peephole in the door in front of them as the performers break out into dance.
Japanese dance company Moonlight Mobile Theater has come up with a novel way of bringing people back to their avant-garde performances while maintaining social distancing.
Audience members sit on stools in separated cubicles surrounding the stage, each with its own door and letter-drop slots through which they can watch the dancers.
“We intentionally created small holes and slots resembling mailbox slots,” said Nobuyoshi Asai, the theater’s artistic director and choreographer, explaining how limiting the scope of viewing allows the audience to become more absorbed in the performance.
The theater company began this peephole viewing in December after canceling most of its shows last year because of the pandemic. Since December, all 12 of the peephole performances have sold out.
Though this response has been encouraging, only 30 people are allowed in the audience at each show. This does not cover the cost of the performance, including additional safety measures such as disinfecting the venue. Government subsidies barely help the company make ends meet.
While acknowledging the difficulties, Asai is steadfast in the advantages of this idea.
“If we don’t do it, artists will lose opportunities to dance and act,” he said. “We want to propose this as a model to bring audiences back to theaters.”