Brooklyn-based performer Siobhan O’Loughlin will be coming to St. Louis with her solo show. Her character has broken her arm in a serious bike accident. She turns to the audience for help, sharing her story and “exploring themes of trauma, suffering human generosity and connection.”
She does not need a big stage. But, she does have one request: she would like to borrow your bathtub.
The show, Broken Bone Bathtub, is being co-produced by The Uppity Theatre Company and the Drama Club Stl. The show will go on in private homes throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area on Thursdays at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm. It will be performed at the historic Lemp Mansion on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
The show was conceived from a real-life experience. O’Loughlin is an avid bicyclist who collided with another biker one day. She broke her arm and had a cast that needed to be kept dry. This made taking showers difficult. So, she went to friends’ houses to borrow their bathtubs. Her friends would help her out. This and the conversations she had with them would pave the way for Broken Bone Bathtub.
O’Loughlin is naked the entire show, with only the bubbles covering her up. She says she once had someone say to her after the show that she was so brave for doing something like that.
“The thing I’m most insecure about is my body and how I feel about my body image,” O’Loughlin says. “It reminds me being in a room with a bunch of people really intimately and really closely, they’re not afraid of me. . .They’re not gonna run away. It’s a constant reminder that you are your toughest critic.”
O’Loughlin says putting on the show is exciting because there is no telling what will happen. The experience is different every time for her. One of the biggest things about the show is the audience participation. Usually, shows will have around 6-8 people per performance. Those who agree to participate will take on the part of O’Loughlin’s friends, helping her with her bath. For about 30 minutes, the show is all about interactivity.
“Because of how the show unfolds, the audience becomes as vulnerable as I am,” O’Loughlin says. “It’s about sharing inner vulnerabilities.”
There is a different audience for every showing and the experience is always different. However, in the nearly 200 shows, she has not had an experience that has not worked.
O’Loughlin has traveled to Japan, France and across the United States to perform the show. She needs the help of theater companies in order to put this show on. She says these theater companies were always looking to take risks in theater, but there was some hesitation as she was naked and they were afraid audiences would come for the wrong reasons. But, O’Loughlin says the show is not meant to be provocative in that way. A host in Minneapolis actually says this show is appropriate for a wide range of ages.
“He says that this is the kind of show that you could bring your 80-year-old grandmother to or you could bring your 14-year-old son to,” O’Loughlin says. “It’s very acceptable. There’s nothing uncomfortable about it. We made it work.”
Uppity Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Joan Lipkin first met O’Loughlin when she was performing her other show, The Rope in Your Hands, at the St. Louis Fringe Festival.
“She was clearly a deep, soulful and engaging performer and I was curious to see what her more personal work would be like,” Lipkin says.
Lipkin found that show in Broken Bone Bathtub, which she saw in New York City. She sat with six other people in the bathroom of a woman she did not know.
“We didn’t just function as her friends,” Lipkin says. “Over the course of the performance, we became her friends.”
Drama Club Stl Founder Matthew Kerns approached Lipkin about producing the show in St. Louis. She agreed, as she had a long history of producing solo work, such as the nationally acclaimed Alternate Currents/Direct Currents series.
“It seemed like a natural fit,” Lipkin says. “I think we yearn for things that are intimate and hand made.”
What also appealed to Lipkin was the fact that the show was not being shown in a conventional theater. She has always been someone who is looking to see theater and storytelling change and she found Broken Bone Bathtub to be an ideal example of that.
In terms of bringing the audience to the show, she has no idea how to do that. Lipkin says almost everything she does or produces is a grand experiment.
“I think of my theater as a space of welcome,” Lipkin says. “People are always welcome at what it is we do and we have done many, many different kinds of things. I hope that they’re ready for something a little bit different.”
Tickets for the show cost $25 for Thursday showings and $45 for all other showings. Reservations for a Thursday performance can be made by contacting Matthew Kerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. For other performances, call (314) 664-8024. V
by Bill Loellke