The world is changing rapidly. Hop on any subway, go shopping in any mall or even wait in line at any theme park in the world and you will see most people playing with their cell phone. Whether it’s texting a friend, updating their Facebook status or taking pictures of what you’re eating on Instagram, more than ever people want to stay connected with each other and play an active role in society – even digitally.
With that change comes a shortening of attention spans. I can’t even tell you the last movie I have been to where someone doesn’t take their cell phone out at least once, taking everyone around them out of the action on the screen. Even parents are bringing portable DVD players to restaurants to give their toddlers something to do while food is being prepared ensuring that they will have the attention span of a goldfish by age five.
There are many positives to this new craving to be constantly active and connected. Entertainment is shifting in nearly every aspect including a new era of immersive theater. If you are a fan of this website, you will know that I have been fascinated with this new style of storytelling ever since I visited Drip in Orlando. In immersive theater, there are no seats or stage. The show surrounds you from all sides and you are an active participant.
New York City tends to be the leader in this new territory of immersive theater and Carlo D’Amore is one of the trail blazers. Carlo didn’t exactly set out to create an immersive theater production; he just kind of stumbled upon it. Like many actors in New York City, Carlo needed a steadier income between jobs. The landlords of the apartment he was renting on the Lower East Side also run a museum in that neighborhood. He was offered a job as a tour guide and even though history was never his thing, he found the stories that happened within his own neighborhood to be fascinating.
In particular, he found The Ryan Case in 1873 to be particularly interesting. The double-homicide murder of a brother and sister took place in the neighborhood he resides in. He decided to write a script based on the case and ended up selling the idea of a murder mystery on the streets of New York to some investors back in 2009. The result is his own company called Live IN Theater – where the audience lives inside the action of the show, not just watching it from a distance.
The murder, to this day, remains unsolved, which is where the participation comes in. Guests are broken up into teams playing the role of detectives and are given packets of information including mug shots and maps.
Teams are then sent around the Lower East side of Manhattan looking for witnesses that give valuable clues in order to help solve the crime. Carlo wants his actors to truly get into their roles and not homogenize them in any way. For example, there is a homeless drag queen prostitute with a drug problem who sleuths need to interrogate. This prostitute will hit on the men and the women in the group and ask them for a few bucks so she can “get her fix.” One time, some passersby who didn’t realize she was part of the show, called 911 because they thought the drag queen genuinely needed medical attention. The local neighborhood cops and EMT’s know about the show and roughly what time the performances are and are now prepared to just laugh off such calls.
Be warned, this is not children’s theater. To Carlo’s credit, he wants his actors to truly get into their characters and that includes some heavy subjects – which can also be quite funny. Also, don’t be surprised if some “F bombs” are dropped along the way.
Even though the case is left unsolved on the books, Carlo creates one for his play so guests can have a chance at actually solving the mystery and have an ending to his show. The finale includes the murderer being handcuffed in a squad car and being hauled away.
In addition to the Ryan Case, Live IN Theater also has a show called the Lombardi Case of 1975. This show is even grittier than the original show, as the crime itself is just that much more gruesome. In the fall of 2013, Carlo hopes to start a third show that will take place on Friday nights in Midtown Manhattan. Same murder mystery style, real case, except right in the middle of busy Midtown streets.
In the future, Carlo would love to open up similar murder mystery shows that took place in other cities including London where audiences would get inside the story of Jack the Ripper and San Francisco to help solve the famous Zodiac killer murders.
So if you are ever in New York City and want to get a taste of real history combined with solving a crime and theater that takes place right in the middle of the streets of the Lower East Side? You need to make reserve your spot to see a production from Live In Theater. Check out their website here at www.LiveInTheater.com.