PORTLAND, Maine — Stacks of old yellow pages, vintage porn mags, handwritten grocery lists — this is the kind of stuff a group of artists discovered when they bid on the contents of a 20-by-10-foot storage unit.
For years, maybe even decades, the owner of that unit had been paying a local storage company hundreds of dollars a month to hold the items, before finally deciding — for whatever reason — to let it all go into default.
The artists, a group called Bare Portland, dug right in. For the next year, they probed the contents of every old notebook, every receipt, every creepy horror movie from the stranger’s VHS collection. They weren’t looking to pawn off someone else’s estate — it was worthless, after all. Instead, they used the stranger’s possessions to tell a story of their own.
That story became a play, and that play opened this weekend. “[Storage]: a Story of Stuff” rearranges the stranger’s life’s possessions in an empty wing within an abandoned Catholic girls school in Portland, a sort of playground where an audience can experience their findings as a unique story.
Catherine Buxton, the show’s producer, said that the experiment was both exhilarating and uncomfortable for the 20 or so artists who worked on the project, raising ethical questions and the uneasy feeling of invading someone’s privacy.