An interactive theatrical exhibit

Posts tagged “leah johnston


Check out our great review in LA Weekly which raves, “By conceptualizing theatre as such an all-inclusive medium that calling American Dollhouse a play doesn’t do it justice. Barnett and Johnston may be showing us a glimpse of theater’s future.”- Pretty sweet!!

Read the full review here or in the latest issue of LA Weekly!

Creating a Dollhouse

Welcome to the dollhouse, ladies and gents.  Come inside and stay a while.  Although you may be just hearing about this project now, Leah and I have been busy at work constructing our house for the past six months.  What began as a mere conversation between friends about “doing” something has grown into a very dear and demanding project for two fresh collaborators.  Creating a life-size dollhouse within an art gallery is no simple task.  There are a myriad of conceptual and technical elements that come into play.  Let’s dive in, shall we?
The concept for our show was inspired by Leah’s photography, which represents a wide range of dark themes ranging from secrets, delusion, loss and social conformity.

Sinister Magnetism

At the time we were contemplating a collaboration, Leah was in the midst of creating a series of photos and poems called American Dollhouse wherein she composited images of herself into a miniature dollhouse.  The themes expressed in these images provided us with a jumping-off point for something much larger and complex.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if these dolls were representations of real people with real problems?”
A mother – trapped within her role as dutiful housewife.
A father – unable to free himself from his own sexual repression.
A daughter – confined to what she believes is expected of her.
A son – trapped by the expectations of society.
From there, the idea of creating a life-size dollhouse as a theatrical rendering seemed only natural, and the idea of magniyfing the idyllic childhood toy was the perfect vehicle through which to examine the themes we hoped to convey.  We then realized we needed a time period for our house and our masked family. After a bit of researching, we decided that American culture of the 1950s would best suit the themes we were going for. Not only was this an era defined by it’s repression, but it also represented American at the height of it’s idealism.
But fusing these themes together into a life-size dollhouse is no easy task.  Once we decided on a production concept, we needed to find the perfect space for it.  I was located in New York City while Leah had just relocated to Los Angeles.  Leah had just exhibited at Gallery Godo, located in Glendale, California.  The owner, Vaan Manoukian, had expressed enormous interest in our project.  Coming from a designing background, he quickly offered his popular art gallery as a venue to showcase this production and design the interior of the house.  Gallery Godo was a 4,000 square foot gallery with multiple rooms.  It was perfect.

From there, it was a lot of design meetings, script writing, prop hunting and fundraising. After what seemed to us a very long and stressful Kickstarter campaign, we finally reached and surpassed our goal of $7,500 in order to produce the show.  It has been an experience much bigger, much more rewarding, than Leah or I had ever envisioned. As we enter the final stages of our pre-production, rehearsals, we are watching our baby grow and flourish. But this is no ordinary baby.  This baby has fangs.

So thank-you to all who have already supported us, and who continue to support us through this process. We hope to see you all at the dollhouse January 28th for what is sure to be an awesome night of play.

With porcelain cheer,
Chris Barnett