A drive-thru ‘Odyssey,’ a mystery by mail. Austin groups find ways to make theater without theaters

Ground Floor Theater
Austin's Ground Floor Theater, which hosts many independent theater groups, is currently closed to public shows.

The Vortex Theatre is staging a re-think of Homer’s “The Odyssey” as a drive-thru performance installation at sites along Manor Road. Meanwhile, New Manifest Theatre will pivot its new play festival online, free for all to experience.

Over six weeks, Shrewd Productions, which focuses on amplifying female voices, will unfold a new mystery experience through weekly letters sent through the U.S. post. And the all-female Heartland Theatre Collective has created a radio play for a live broadcast.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Austin’s independent performing arts community continue to find inventive ways to make new theater, even if it’s not a close in-person experience inside an actual theater.

Some upcoming shows are:

  • “Letters From Camp Shrewd: An Episodic Play by Mail.” The kids of Camp Shrewd are in lockdown, haunted by the ghosts of campers past. With an internet outage cutting them off from the online world, they resort to writing letters to their friends and loved ones. Audience members will receive six weekly letters, along with artifacts from their camper. The camper correspondence starts when you by a ticket, which start at $30 shrewdproductions.com
  • “Passage: A New Radio Play.” The story of a group of astronauts trapped in the pull of a black hole who are forced to confront questions of love, loss, and faith. 7 p.m. Sept. 12. Tickets are free, donations are welcome. heartlandtheatrecollective.com
  • “Manifest Minifest: Round 2.” A live online mini-fest of hort plays by emerging Texas playwrights “Covenant” by Kristiana Rae Colón, “Boy” by Cris Eli Blak, “Flat Hens Don’t Lay Eggs Or How the Chicken Crossed the Road” by Katie Svatek, and “Maude” by Andra Laine Hunter. Sept. 24-26; tickets are free, donations are welcome. Sign-up to access the stream at eventbrite.com/e/manifest-minifest-round-2-a-virtual-short-play-festival-tickets-117820619645
  •  “The Vortex Odyssey” is a contemporary re-imagining of the Homeric epic experienced as a drive-thru performance installation. Audience members view the contactless installations from their cars, with installations along Manor Road not far from the Vortex’s home base. You’ll need to use your smartphone to downloaded a free app to access sound. Oct. 1-10; tickets begin at $125 per vehicle. Tickets & info: vortexrep.secure.force.com/ticket#/
    • For those self-isolating or those from afar, the drive-thru show is complimented by a virtual event, “The Vortex Odyssey: Underworld,” which will provide an online experience of the live event and other features. Sept. 25-Oct. 10; tickets begin at $33, vortexrep.secure.force.com/ticket#/