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The D.C.-based playwright Renee Calarco has said that she wrote the new immersive, multimedia theater experience Museum 2040 to be “unproducible, impossible, and experimental.” So it seems she found ideal collaborators with the 4615 Theatre Company, because when Artistic Director Jordan Friend first read the script for the future-set epic, he didn’t see the undoable, he saw “a green light.”
“I read it and I was like, ‘Oh, this is eminently producible. It’s just different,'” says Friend. “It calls for use of multiple rooms. We have a space with multiple rooms. It calls for multimedia elements. We have an in-house video designer. So from a technical standpoint, there are far scarier shows in a lot of ways.” Since founding the company with a bloody production of The Duchess of Malfi that sprawled around his family’s house in Chevy Chase, Friend has been staring down challenges that might scare off less intrepid impresarios.
“My producing director Greg Strasser calls what we do ‘impossible theater,'” he says. “I think what he means when he says that, is that…we choose something that seems impossible at first glance, because we always recognize that the distance between what we think we’re capable of and what seems impossible is always going to be the most interesting solution.”
The most daunting challenge in constructing Museum 2040 might be in how best to describe and market the concept to an audience. As Jordan acknowledges, “How do you communicate to people what this is? That’s a huge bridge to say, ‘You’re coming to a play, but you’re going to be walking around and there’s going to be actors among you. Then you’re going to sit down and watch a panel discussion where you can ask them questions.'”
Entering the space at Dance Loft on 14, patrons pass through museum-style security before being allowed thirty minutes to freely roam the “American Museum of Reconciliation,” filled with artifacts that tell the harrowing story of America post-2020. The museum is also filled with cast members, portraying curators, panelists, even the security. “There is a character-driven story that unfolds and we don’t want to completely obscure that from people,” says Friend. “But there are also some heavy-duty spoilers that would be diminishing the experience if we gave away just what transpires.”
What transpires, however, might vary significantly from night-to-night. “There’s just the fact that no two performances are going to be the same,” says Friend, “because every audience is different. If we have a 10-person house, that’s a very different experience from a 30-person house, which is the maximum — we can only take 30, tops, per performance. The dynamics of the play change based on who our crowd is, what age are they, how many are there. It’s a really different show each time.”
Museum 2040 runs through March 29 at Dance Loft on 14, 4618 14th St. NW. Tickets are $20. Patrons under 30 pay only $16.50. Call 301-928-2738, or visit www.4615theatre.com.
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