Theater preview: "Opening Skinner's Box" wants you

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

Renowned British ensemble Improbable Theatre Company is in the midst of its third residency at the Wexner Center for the Arts, and they're asking for Columbus' participation in crafting their next stage production, an adaptation of 2004's landmark book "Opening Skinner's Box" by Lauren Slater.

Improbable has been workshopping the source material, which features the backstories behind 10 significant psychological experiments of the 20th Century - including those of controversial behaviorist B.F. Skinner - and will host a discussion Thursday evening with the public to examine the process at this point.

"In the journey of having had some great residencies here at the Wex, what's been very beneficial has been that opportunity early on to just engage with your audience, and [show] the direction we're going," said Improbable co-artistic director Phelim McDermott. "Just hearing some feedback - even if that's not necessarily explicit feedback from the audience, but the feeling and temperature of how people are responding to what we're doing - becomes a guide and part of the process of creating the show."

While McDermott and fellow artistic director Lee Simpson aren't entirely certain of what will transpire during Thursday's event - open discussion is the design, and it's still early in the development process - they are absolute that Improbable's version will focus on the human elements as well as the science.

"What came to me is these are scientists who're experimenting on us. They are us, because scientists are people, too," said Simpson. "So the stories that their experiments uncover, the story of what we are like is also the story of what they are like. It seems reasonable to me that the experiments will go beyond the experiments themselves to the people who created them. So what you have is, the experiment is a story and that's inside another story, which is how the experiment came to be and the people who created it and that's inside another story, which is the cultural, historical and community framework. It's a story inside a story inside a story. Slater sensed this, and it shows in how she wrote the book."

Improbable heads back to London on Friday to continue developing "Opening Skinner's Box" - with insight from attendees of the discussion incorporated - and begin the opening run of the stage production in Spring of 2016. Both McDermott and Simpson said they would love to bring "Opening Skinner's Box" back to the Wex after the European tour.

Thursday's event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and reservations are required.

Wexner Center for the Arts

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16

1871 N. High St., Campus