- photo by Anastasia Pottinger
A look into the inspiration behind the GreenHouse Theatre Project’s performances.
Nontraditional. Innovative. Avant garde. These are just some of the characteristics that can describe GreenHouse Theatre Project, a nonprofit theatre company founded by Elizabeth Braaten Palmieri and Emily Adams in 2011 that is known for their site-specific performances around the city.
Led to Columbia by each of their husbands’ new jobs, both of these women found themselves here around the same time. Both being professional actors and directors with extensive experience with nontraditional theatre in nontraditional spaces, they wanted to create a unique platform to showcase their work. “There was nothing like what we wanted to do here in Columbia,” Elizabeth says.
Being a new company with no money and no home for rehearsals or performances didn’t stop this duo. Instead, they used this as an opportunity to bring innovative theatre to the community. “We depended on this idea of site-specific. We’re like vagabonds — we move from location to location,” Elizabeth explains. This was the seed that sprouted GreenHouse Theatre Project.
GreenHouse brings a new meaning to innovative and nontraditional theatre. The theatre company transforms the community into their stage. From nightclubs downtown to the rooftops of the art district, GreenHouse’s performance spaces have no limits. “We have inhabited and taken over in different ways,” Elizabeth says.
One of these nontraditional performances, Elizabeth remembers, was an adaptation of “Frankenstein” that she wrote. In this production, the theatre company collaborated with Hoot Design Co. and SilverBox Photographers to create an immersive production that allowed the audience to move throughout the space as action was happening. “I collaborated with two visual artists who were able to take my vision and bring it to life, and they created an art installation in which the performers and the audience got to move within it,” Elizabeth describes.
GreenHouse productions are, as Elizabeth describes, “quick and dirty.” Most of the productions put on by GreenHouse are around 60 to 75 minutes long. They’re fast-paced, engaging, and made to enthrall. “The idea is that you can grab ahold of your audience. You don’t even give them an option of wanting to look at their phone or their watch,” Elizabeth explains. This has become GreenHouse’s mission: to keep the audience’s attention long enough to tell the story and entertain them.
Collaboration is another element that allows GreenHouse to be innovative. In a traditional theatre, theatrical costume and set designers are hired to help with a production. But for GreenHouse productions, Elizabeth seeks visual artists to help create the scene. “We’re not trying to mask or disguise any of the spaces we’re in. I’ve chosen each of the spaces we’re performing in for a reason,” Elizabeth says.
Each project for GreenHouse Theatre Project starts as a seed that Elizabeth is planting. From adapting the plays to collaborating with other artists, Elizabeth plants these seeds and watches how they take shape and grow. For GreenHouse, she explains, “It’s not just people standing and walking around talking. People are performing with every facet of their body, and it’s dangerous — with live theatre, it’s never going to be the same. Anything can happen.”