Cándido Tirado’s new play Fish Men began preview performances last weekend, and when audiences arrived for the world premiere production in the Owen they entered into a rare setting for the Goodman: a theater configured stadium-style, with the stage planted in the center of the auditorium and seats built up around it on all four sides.
Stadium-style seating (also known as “arena” seating, or “theater in the round”) is used infrequently at the Goodman, in part because plays done in the round are particularly challenging to stage: the action and the actors are completely exposed from all angles for the entirety of the performance, as is every detail of the set right down to the props. There’s no room for visual trickery—everything that happens on stage will be seen by someone in the audience. But with Fish Men—which chronicles, in real-time, an afternoon with a group of chess hustlers in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park—staging the play in the round offered director Edward Torres and set designer Collette Pollard the chance to create a sense of community between the audience and the actors. When seats are configured around a stage they’re not just facing the action from all angles, but they’re also facing each other.
The effect is to evoke the experience of entering that very public, exposed corner of Washington Square Park, and to draw the audience into the world of the characters in the same way that the hustlers on stage attempt to draw in (or “hook”) new customers.
The last time stadium-style seating was used at the Goodman was four years ago during the Horton Foote Festival in early 2008. Fish Men runs through May 6, so don’t miss your chance to experience this arresting new play in the round while it's here.
Photography by Dean LaPrairie