The Public Garden Stage, the Greenway Frame

If you’re walking through the Boston Public Garden over the next two weeks and catch someone with headphones on staring at you, don’t be alarmed; they’re just your adoring audience. The pretentiously spelled ArtsEmerson program is sponsoring Susurrus, David Leddy’s “play without actors and without a stage,” according to the ArtsEmerson web site. As far as I can tell, both those assertions are lies.

The word “susurrus” means a whispering or rustling sound; but Susurrus is a recording, the sort of thing that used to be called a “radio play.” The actors are recorded, yes, but they did exist at some point in the past.  They tell stories in snatches and pieces about a man, his family, opera, the scientific investigation of sparrows, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You can listen to a sample of a very Scottish-sounding version here.

The production also has a stage: the Public Garden, including its trees, grass, fences, water, and other visitors. Ticket holders are given headphones and a map of where they should listen to each scene, with musical interludes between scenes (presumably to allow the audience to get to the next spot). I don’t know exactly where the audience goes, but the Public Garden is full of excellent sets. The Boston Globe describes one scene at the Ether Monument, that curious tribute to an anesthetic. Does the play linger at the Japanese Pagoda Tree, or the Camperdown Elm? Perhaps. I hope the audience doesn’t end up diving into the Lagoon in search of lost ducklings, but I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the piece just yet, so I can’t be sure.

If you’d like to wander around the Public Garden smugly staring at passers-by without hearing a drama that includes suicide and child abuse, you can also download a free audio tour of the Public Garden, courtesy of the Friends of the Boston Public Garden.  You’ll hear more about trees, less about human misery, but either way, you’ll have a nice walk.

Susurrus runs through June 5. If you can’t score tickets, consider taking a walk on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway on June 4-5 for Figment Boston, an interactive arts festival. There are all sorts of noble ideas on the Why Figment? manifesto, but it all boils down to this: more than 80 artists will let you wander through and mess around with their stuff. Last year Figment included a real car you could paint (with real paint!), buckets of rose petals to toss at anyone nearby, a billowing fabric walk-through maze, and a gigantic jelly fish made out of plastic bottles, among other things.

Bring the kids– afterwards, the entire family can always hose off at one Greenway fountains. I was always sure they’d come in handy some day.

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