Siobhan O’Loughlin performed in a bathtub last night for 12 strangers. The bathroom was spacious, with comfortable towels and a bust of Venus de Milo in the corner. The bathrooms aren’t always this luxurious. Sometimes they have fluorescent lights that need to be softened with scarves. Other times the bathrooms are smaller and, to use that theater buzzword, vulnerable. O’Loughlin doesn’t know what her performance space looks like until a few hours before the show, but that’s part of the point.
O’Loughlin, a writer, actress, and theater artist based out of Brooklyn, is on a “bathtub tour” around the world. Broken Bone Bathtub has performed in Japan, the U.K., and across the United States. It was last seen in Minneapolis during the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival. The show sold out its Seward-based run almost immediately, gaining many favorable reviews and securing loyal fans of the show. Those same fans are now her hosts, opening up their private bathrooms to strangers for a unique theater experience.
After a severe biking accident last October, her fourth in four years, O’Loughlin was left with a large cast on her arm that made showering almost impossible. Instead, she opted for a traditional, safer route: baths. The only problem? Her apartment didn’t have one.
“Friends would ask, ‘What can I do?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, do you have a bath?’” To O’Loughlin’s surprise, many of her friends eagerly offered up their bathrooms. She was soon bathing all over New York City. This gave her the idea for Broken Bones Bathtub, an immersive theater experience designed to bring people together around the themes of generosity and healing.
Broken Bone Bathtub might frighten away a few polite Minnesotans, but O’Loughlin assures folks that it’s a show with universal appeal. One of her hosts enthusiastically told their friends, “You can bring your grandmother or you can bring your teenage son. It’s completely appropriate.”
While the story mostly revolves around O’Loughlin’s biking accident and her journey to recovery, the play’s narrative relies on the audience. “The piece is half my story and half the audience’s stories. I have no idea how it'll go each night,” she says.
In a time when immersive theater performances tend to be epic in scale (think Crime and Punishment at The Soap Factory or 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea at the Children’s Theater Company), O’Loughlin demonstrates how immersive theater can also focus on intimate, simple experiences. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartfelt, Broken Bone Bathtub is a quirky example of what can happen when we open our hearts — and homes — to others.
IF YOU GO:
Broken Bone Bathtub
Daily through October 29
Various Twin Cities homes
For tickets and more information, visit online.