With the motto "setting theater free," The Empty Space has set the bar high. So "Caligari," a new late-night show playing this weekend, should be no surprise for local audiences. But this immersive theater experience is unlike anything the Oak Street playhouse has put on the stage.

In fact, it's not on the stage — the audience is. The cast of 11 will help the story of Dr. Caligari and his dark works unfold around an unsuspecting audience, which will stand in the area usually reserved for the performance. 

"It's a immersive theater experience," said director Daniel Korth. "Very stylized, a mixture of Expressionist work with a bizarre dreamscape."

"We’ve really flipped it around completely. There is no seating except for those who do require it."

The highest risers will have seats for those who will be unable to stand or walk for the up-to-50-minute-long show. Actors will occupy the lower risers, which normally holds chairs for the audiences and walk around the audience. 

Audience members are also encouraged to explore the space, which will be lit primarily with LED and practical lights, some carried or worn by the actors.

The play, first developed by Korth while an undergrad at San Francisco State, loosely follows the 1920 silent German film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." The mystery surrounds the doctor, played by Eric Tolley, whose homicidal plans involving somnambulist Cesare threaten Francis and her fiancee, Jane.

The show also stars Michelle Guerrero, Faith Hall, Alissa Morrow, Kelsey Morrow, Angela Poncetta, Claire Rock, Paul Sosa, Julia Stansbury, Tray Trimble and Morgan Von Sydow.

Response has been good during test runs with theater board members serving as the audience.

"It makes you feel as if you got sucked through the TV and into a classic horror movie," he said, but notes "it's more creepy than suspenseful. We don't grab the audience."

Performances are at 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday at The Empty Space, 706 Oak St. Admission is $5.

Audiences will be capped at about 40 to allow for the flow of the performance. Those who require seating may inquire when arriving for the show.

If you want to make a full evening of it, head out early to catch the modern-set Shakespeare tale "Two Gentlemen of Verona," which plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Bard's Birthday Bash matinee performance will be Sunday at 2 p.m. featuring cake, cocktails and more. Tickets are $10-$20.

Sutherland returns to Palace Tuesday

The actor-turned-musician is often a set-up for a punchline but some move past the cliche to deliver a solid performance. Kiefer Sutherland, who counts touring bars with original music along with lead movie and TV roles among his accomplishments, is one such exception.

After a successful visit in 2016, the actor returns to Buck Owens' Crystal Palace. When he visited Bakersfield last, he said he connects most to the storytelling element common in country music, including the Bakersfield Sound.

“To me it was as much about a songwriting style as a special sound," he said. "It’s the storytelling that I responded to the most.”

He's likely to perform songs from his 2016 release “Down in a Hole,” a mix of classic country, country rock and singer-songwriter fare.

The show is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Buck Owens Crystal Palace, 2800 Buck Owens Blvd. Admission is $20-$28.50, available at vallitix.com. Call 328-7560 or visit buckowens.com for more information.

Teen musician to perform with Tehachapi Symphony

In January, the Tehachapi Orchestra Board Foundation held a young artist competition, with the winner set to receive a monetary prize and a chance to perform a concerto with the Tehachapi Symphony. 

Winner Alexander Michael Bailey will take part in the May 6 concert, performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor.

The Stockdale High School junior plays in both the string orchestra and the symphony orchestra at the school. He has been a regular participant in Strolling Strings, Kern County Honor Orchestra and Bakersfield Youth Symphony. Bailey has played with the Tehachapi Symphony in the past as well as the Bakersfield College production of “Into the Woods.” He began private lessons in the second grade and studies with Mrs. Rebecca Brooks.

The performance is at 4 p.m. May 6 at Country Oaks Baptist Church, 20915 Schout Road in Tehachapi. For more information, call 821-7511 or visit tehachapiorchestra.com.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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