For the past six weeks, a 24-foot truck has been making the rounds on the streets of North Brooklyn, making evening stops in front of local bars and restaurants.
The back of the truck slowly descends, becoming a ramp to the street, as a group of strangers board to be greeted by a couple in a makeshift lobby, who direct them towards an assortment of chairs and cushions placed throughout truck.
Soon, the couple takes to the stage – the stage being the truck itself.
They call it the Truck Project. It’s a theater production that takes places entirely in the insides of the 24-foot truck.
The project is the brainchild of Bushwick-based couple Jean Ann Douglass and Eric John Meyer.
Since May 16, the couple has been transforming a rented truck into a theater in which they perform two 35-minute shows with a 15-minute intermission.
The truck can accommodate 16 audience members at each performance. Attendees aren’t informed of the location until the day of the show, and Douglass and Meyer usually park the truck in front of a neighborhood bar or a café so guests can get together with the duo after the performance.
So, why a truck?
“Why not a truck?” asked Meyer. “It’s incredibly convenient, we can have a venue whenever we want wherever we want. It’s very affordable, and it makes for an intimate setting.”
“A big part of the fun for me is thinking about it as an art installation, figuring out what it’s going to be like, what people will be sitting on, and what the entire environment is going to be,” added Douglass. “When you’re dealing with a space that small and an audience size that small you have a lot of freedom to play around and control everything. It’s a really tiny laboratory.”
The project first took shape in 2010. They’ve already performed in four cities – New Orleans, Austin, Spartanburg, and New York.
Both have trained extensively in the theater and performing arts, and both were inspired by movies while creating the project.
For Meyer, it was Tom Stoppard’s absurdist 1990 film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, in which the opening sequence features a carriage transforming into a self-contained theater venue.
And Douglass by Hedwig and the Angry Inch, where in a dream sequence, Hedwig, who lives in a trailer, kicks down its wall and breaks into a song and dance routine.
“When I saw that, I thought to myself I want to have this RV where I can kick down the wall and be a rock star.”
Douglass however has some past experience in “theater-truck,” performing arts. As part of her Master’s project at Brooklyn College, she performed at the Last Horizon Night Market in Brooklyn where trucks acted as stages for a variety of live performances in 2011.
At the Truck Project, the show is an all-consuming effort for the duo.
“The most challenging part is that we wear all the hats,” said Douglass. “We wrote the shows, we perform them, we directed them, we were the ones selling the tickets, we were the ones greeting the audience, we’re the ones that makes sure the wiring is all setup and we are the executive producers.”
Accidents and incidents alike are of course inevitable to performing in a truck outdoors, but for Douglass and Meyer, it’s just another prop to be used in the show.
They’ve dealt with everything from a brick thrown through their window, the keys locked in the truck, and having a skateboarder speed up the ramp mid-performance.
The unexpected is what drives and motivates the duo.
And they have day jobs too, just in case you were wondering.
Douglass works at Fractured Atlas and Meyer works at Penguin writing book-jacket covers.
And yes it does take a toll on the duo. It’s the reason they only perform in weeks long stretches a few times each year.
“We both definitely have days when we have no energy and just want to sleep for 12 hours,” said Douglass.
“We need that time when we’re just making dinner at home, watching Netflix,” added Meyer.
The duo is hosting its last set of performances this week before they break for the summer.
They’ll write a new set of plays in the interim and going forward they want to perform in more cities.
“One of the main reasons we love doing the show is that you come as strangers leave as friends,” said Douglass.