Car Drama of the Week

The Earthquake Predictor Rides the Bus

The spontaneous and melodramatic nature of live theater leaves much room for innovation, whether via surprising turns of Shakespearean phrase or through casual outdoor settings that turn the venues themselves into meaningful characters. But perhaps never before — at least in Santa Barbara — have theatrical tricks gone as far as in UCSB doctoral candidate Hank Willenbrin’s The Earthquake Predictor Rides the Bus. That’s because the play  — which is being shown for free on September 22 and 29 at 7, 8, and 9 p.m. as part of the ongoing Off-Axis contemporary arts festival — takes place on a moving bus.

Acted and directed by Westmont professor Mitchell Thomas, the play will begin at the corner of State Street and Cabrillo Boulevard when audience members board the bus and continue for about 30 minutes before dropping them back off where it started. The play presents Santa Barbara’s history through the eyes of an earthquake expert with temporal problems, meaning that he has trouble figuring out what’s past, present, reality, and dreams. It’s all a precursor to a future event later this fall, where Thomas will be presenting up to 20 student plays that all take place in a vehicle of some sort. In that late November/early December project, the audience will filter through cars as the players repeat their performances throughout the evening.

But don’t wait for that  — check out The Earthquake Predictor Rides the Bus next weekend, and say you were there when Santa Barbara theater took a bus ride to groundbreaking theatrical innovation.

—  Matt Kettmann

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