Immersive, Mysterious Museum Theater
Given my recent serendipitous spate of writing museum theater, I have been reflecting on how many formative experiences happened for me at this rich intersection of education and drama.
Each summer of my childhood, my mother, brother, aunt, and cousin made the trek up the Eastern seaboard to the family's summer cottage in Maine and then back homeward for the school year. Along the way, we stopped at historical sites with reenactment like Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, and Old Sturbridge Village.
Between visits to museums, my cousin Jenny and I curated our own collections of recreated historical miniatures and dramatized historical fictions--with our American Girl Dolls. When an educational theater course at Northwestern took me to the theater at the American Girl Place on the Magnificent Mile, I felt both nostalgia and fresh emotion to see Addy's Underground Railroad story staged. It's no wonder that my cousin became a historian and the tinsmith at Williamsburg (her handmade gifts have no rival).
Now I find myself writing scripts based on history (Madame Bonaparte) for art (MOCA Jacksonville) and history museums (the Matheson), and I feel both at home and newly energized. This feels right and authentic and exciting. I'm learning and teaching and creating at this rich intersection and reaching new audiences.
As for the spate of site-specific, promenade, and environmental stagings I am working on, I was very intrigued by Jerzy Grotowski's Laboratory Theatre work in college and most impacted by two performances in the studio space at Chicago Shakespeare Theater that immersed me in their action--Edward II (dir. Sean Graney) and The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (National Theater of Scotland). My work with Creative Drama in the Evanston school system and with Kennedy Center artist Karen Erickson was also immersive and educational.
Even my recreational sweep into the world of Dungeons & Dragons and escape rooms taught me about world-making, rule-setting, and audience-involving. My favorite PC game back before I was allowed to use the Internet (and when the AOL still sang that grainy song every time it booted up) was Eagle Eye Mysteries, which I am still drawing inspiration from to design a "gamified" experience for Matheson Museum-goers.
Upon reflection, serendipity feels more like fate.
I am so pleased the fates see fit for me to create an experience at the Matheson Museum, and that the muses drive me to deliver unique experiences in the future.