Professional theater has been traditionally set up whereas you (the audience) sit with the stage in front of you and watch the production much like a movie or TV show. The actors come and go on stage and generally entertain you. There is what is known as “the fourth wall” which limits the amount of interplay between the action on stage and the patrons who have come to see the work. This gives a large degree of comfort to those attending the theater.
Then you have shows like “A Killing Game” now playing through April 26, 2014 at Cleveland Public Theater. Not only is “the fourth wall” breached, it is torn down brick by brick until you the audience are actually part of the performance. It is a tightly structured format with plenty of room for audience "interaction".
Upon entering the seating area you are given a packet of printed cards. The first card is general information as to what to expect for the evening of entertainment. The other six cards give you specific duties. You may find yourself being called upon to die, or to portray the coroner, or the town undertaker or any of the other numerous characters needed to tell the story. If you find yourself squeamish about being suddenly “on stage” you can trade your card with another audience member prior to the performance for a less innocuous role.
As you may have guessed by now, “A Killing Game” is about dying. A plague has hit the small town where you and the rest of the audience live. The dog and pony dc crew are the “victims” and the “experts” trying to solve the mystery of where the illness came from, who it is affecting and how to get rid of it before everyone else dies. You have been brought together at the theater to solve the riddle.
Let me clue you in on a little secret. This show is probably the most fun you will ever have in the theater and the closer you are to the action (front three rows) the more fun you will have. You are encouraged not only to participate but to call out random opinions and gags from time to time. You are also “required” to leave your cell phone on and to use it during the performance.
What really “sells” the show is the unabashed enthusiasm of the actors. It is not hard at all to be “caught up in the moment” to the point that you find yourself onstage and actually acting in an improvisational role right off the top of your head. It is a rush alike no other. At the end of each separate sequence, everything is “reset”, the victims come back to life, all is cleaned up and made right and the next segment to begin. The action is fast moving and exciting as the evening flies by.
As in all improve, each night is a mystery as to how it will unfold. It truly depends on the willingness of the audience to participate. The zanier the group in attendance, the more fun will be had by all. I suggest you leave all your performance anxieties at the door and resolve to have a great time. If you do really good, “points” are awarded which in the end mean absolutely nothing but are a nice ego boost.
Beefs and Flubs: This is such a tightly crafted work that even with the X factor of the audience the action moves along at a breakneck pace. It is just good fun.
Prude Alert: There is neither profanity used nor sexual innuendos. This is one to bring the entire family to (especially precocious young children) for a solid evening of interactive fun.
Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): Probably the sole reason that I fell absolutely head over heels for this production is the fact that I was able to participate in a number of small ways. You will find yourself caught up in the maelstrom of action that carries you along for a delightful evening of solid entertainment. See this show but more importantly, be part of the show!
“The show invites the audience to play alongside the performers,” says director Colin K. Bills. “In fact, A Killing Game openly and warmly challenges everyone to see how far they’ll go and how hard they’ll play. It’s entirely up to the audience…and their spontaneity and enthusiasm is one of the joys of the show for everyone.” DC Theatre Scene proclaimed, “It’s all grand fun...not to mention inventive theatre,” and Bills is quick to add, “Like any great party game, the fun is just as much in the playing as it is the winning.”
All of dog & pony dc’s productions explore the elastic relationship between performer and audience with “Audience Integration”—the engagement of audience in the narrative or experiential arc of a performance.
A Killing Game extends Audience Integration into the world of “transmedia” technology, weaving smartphone-based media—Twitter, texts, good old-fashioned calls—into the narrative. In fact, dog & pony dc invites tech-savvy audience members to bring a smart device (iPhone, Android, iPad, tablet, etc) when attending the show, to engage with cast members and each other throughout the A Killing Game experience. As in a real emergency, these unrehearsed and surprising elements add to the fun and unpredictable nature of the production.
For insight into the creation of A Killing Game, visit dogandponydc.tumblr.com, #killinggame or @dogandponydc on Twitter or online at www.dogandponydc.com.
About dog & pony dc
dog & pony dc (d&pdc) is an ensemble-based devised theatre company focused on providing audiences new ways to experience theatre. Through a collaborative process, d&pdc creates (“devises”) new plays as a collective (“ensemble”). The d&pdc company has been recognized as a trailblazer for audience engagement in the field of contemporary theatre. The company was highlighted in Washington Post for “broadening playgoers’ understanding of the riddles theater can unravel.” d&pdc’s Beertown was the first ensemble-devised play to receive a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding New Play (2011) and Beertown’s re-mount made the Washington Post’s Top 10 shows list for 2012. Arena Stage invited d&pdc to workshop A Killing Game as part of The Kogod Cradle Series in advance of the show’s December 2012 premiere. d&pdc has presented about their work locally (Shakespeare Theatre, Capital Fringe) and nationally (Theatre Communications Group, Animating Democracy, and Association for Theater in Higher Education). Most recently the company was included in American Theatre magazine’s March 2013 cover story on ensemble theatre. The company is currently developing its next theatre piece, Toast, for 2014.
Cast and Crew of A Killing Game
A Killing Game was originally developed and scripted by: Colin K. Bills, Rachel Grossman, Lorraine Ressegger-Slone, J. Argyl Plath, Jon Reynolds, Rebecca Sheir and Gwydion Suilebhan.
A Killing Game features performers Max Freedman (Mr. Blue), Yasmin Tuazon (Miss Pink), Wyckham Avery (Miss Green), Karen Lange (Miss Orange), Rachel Grossman (Miss Purple), Jon Reynolds (Mr. Chrome) and Adelaide Waldrop (as “Our Friend in Black”).
A Killing Game is directed by Colin K. Bills. Complete creative team includes Jenn Larsen (Social Media Conductor), Colin K. Bills and Ivania Stack (Production Designers), Zachary A. Dalton (Lighting Designer), Christopher Baine (Original Sound Design), Ellys Abrams (Stage Manager) and Melanie Harker (Production Stage Manager).
Ticket & Show Information
A Killing Game performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday at 7:00 p.m. in CPT’s James Levin Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102.
Tickets are $12 – $28.
All Thursday and Monday shows are just $12! Student and Senior discounts ($3 off) are available for Friday and Saturday performances. The CPT bar will be open before, during and after the show.
**Every Friday is FREE BEER FRIDAY at CPT. Audience members are invited to mingle with the artists after the show and enjoy a drink or two on CPT.**
Tickets are available for purchase at www.cptonline.org or by phone at (216) 631-2727 x 501.