Why Club Drosselmeyer?

I know a lot of people who face anxiety- and it’s a real ordeal. I feel like am one of the blessed/lucky/well-trained (however you might say it) few who doesn’t need to face this daily battle with my brain but if you ask me how I feel today, I would have to be completely honest… I’ve been at a constant vibrate since 8AM. (buzz buzz buzz buzz…)

Why?! Why of course… Drosselmeyer tickets go on sale today for 1st access and officially tomorrow. Our first playtest goes live Saturday. This is the week where my messy, crazy idea becomes a messy real-life crazy thing— or at least the start of it. Dishes will be broken, tempers will be tested, I will forget everybody’s birthday/wedding/event… BUT… it’s happening. I may not sleep for about 5 days. I have no idea why I’m drinking coffee as I write this, if you took a sample of my blood it would be a syringe of adrenaline. I could outrun a car right now… and I hate running. 

The stakes are pretty high. If I were a smarter person, I would’ve built something low-overhead and simple. But - and I know this sounds really weird and flaky- I feel like I don’t invent these projects, I’m just here following the path that’s already marked for them- and small and safe is just not what Drosselmeyer was. It was somehow (to me) already there, already written: it was a big show, a massive immersive environment, huge cast, multiple interactive storylines and live, original music with a big band. Then one of the most prominent black box theaters in New England amazingly saw the vision and invited us in. Its a lot for a first show but that’s just what Drosselmeyer was. And now… the reckoning. Will people see this show-slash-game-slash-cabaret-slash magical evening adventure as clearly as I see it in my head??! Will they want to play along? Will they be willing to don the magic vest and enter this world I’m building?

And that- also a little weird and flaky- is why I’m doing this. It’s something I see so vividly that it’s a shock to me when people don’t already know the story of Herr Drosselmeyer- his secret project Nutcracker and all the film noir intrigue that happens. To me, it’s as obvious as little red riding hood. It’s also so clear to me that this is a game- that this is a new way to tell a story and that we can do it. Danny Fratina, a freakishly talented musician and composer just happens to be right there- with a full big band- waiting to build music for us. Jason Volk just happens to have an incredible army of vintage-loving people all around New England who know exactly how to build a world and are always ready to play along. Mike Hibarger, who has been running massive swing dances in Boston for as long as I’ve been dancing, just happens to be around with little, game-changing suggestions for how to make this possible. We just happen to have a community of wonderful dancers and friends who are always up for an adventure. We just happen to have everything we need. It’s like you wake up and all the ingredients for a cake are sitting, measured on your kitchen counter. What are you going to do? Make toast? Ignore it? I would almost feel guilty if I didn’t build Drosselmeyer. What kind of person would I be if I just walked away? 

And fate, arranging those measured ingredients on my counter - fate knows I believe in magic. Fate knows that I think magic worlds aren’t just fun and cute- I think they’re essential. Fate knows that while are lots of people whose work gives people long, healthy, more comfortable lives, I find my purpose in giving people reasons to keep on living those long, healthy more comfortable lives. If there’s no challenge, no joy, no adventure, why put the time in anyways? As one of my students said to me today “it’s amazing how easy it is to build things when you care about them.” Exactly. My company is Green Door Labs- and I really believe in what I do: building doors. We create doors into magic worlds. This is the biggest door I’ve ever had to build …and now all I can do is hope that people will go through! 

BUILDING CLUB DROSSELMEYER PART 2: A VENUE, DATES AND A FABULOUS DIRECTOR!

Hello fans of Drosselemeyer everywhere! Here’s your handy dandy update on how things are going with our immersive production of Club Drosselmeyer!!

I know I’ve been quiet blog-wise but in fact things have been BUSY in Dross-land. It started with confirmation that we’re officially running the show at OBERON on Arrow St. in Harvard Square Sunday December 11th and and Friday December 16th. 

"THAT OBERON?" You say, "The one right in the center of  Harvard Square, run by the award-winning American  Reparatory Theater??!!"

"ENTHUSIASTIC YES!" I say. What a spot!! The ART has been  downright amazing in helping us put this whole thing  together- especially since they’re dealing with a bunch of  crazy vintage game designers and swing dancers… not your  standard OBERON fare. Turns out OBERON is an incredible force in making original theater happen in Boston and after a fairly extensive application process, our show was accepted! They've been helping with everything from seats to drinks to tech all as a nonprofit with the goal of helping us build awesome stuff and break even! I had no idea we had this incredible resource right here in Boston!!!

As for our images, we've moved from our Sugaplum purple to Drosselmeyer red. Caus you'll see when you're there- that Club Drosselmeyer is awash in rich red curtains. The incredible Elise Roth (is there anything that girl can’t do?) redid the designs so you can see them right here: 

Club Drosselmeyer will be up on the OBERON site this month (we hope.) 

The coolest part about this place is that it already has the feel of a night club: full bar, great entrance, stage, raised seats, tables. We’re going to do what they call a half-cab… or a half cabaret. We’ll have those amazing booths and table up on the balcony. (Possibly)

We're still figuring out the ideal ticket prices but it looks like it will be somewhere around $35 for early bird tickets, $55 for regular tickets and $75 for fancy seat tickets. It may seem steep but with original swing-nutcracker scores by Danny Fratina, a full 8 piece band, 5 dance groups, costumes, set, actors, puzzles… we actually won’t even be able to cover the cost of the show if we sell out all 150 tickets both nights. Crazy right? But apparently most productions rely on grants and sponsors so we’re going to need to lean on our community for micro (and not micro) donations to cover the show costs. More on that later but I’ll especially be leaning on you fabulous people who signed up for the mailing list to help me get the word out!!

But - more about the show. Those wonderful people at the Engagement Game Lab at Emerson College happened to hold a Theater Game Jam this May, where I met my immersive theater soul-mate, Carly Dwyer-Naik. Carly is an experienced director/producer/teacher who’s been running the Concord Carlisle High School Theater dept for the last 10 years. That’s cool- but the part that is REALLY amazing is that Carly has been a LARPer for as long or longer. If you’ve never heard of LARP before- it’s a Live Action Role Play. The idea is that you’re a character in a story, which unfolds around you with certain rules. 

Both Carly and I have been thinking a lot time about where LARPs and games and theater intersect. LARPs are amazing- but the barrier to entry is high. People spend hours and hours learning their characters, learning the rules and figuring out how to play, that’s just not something you can ask of people unless they have a high level of commitment. Theater is awesome… but all those sets, all those worlds and I have to watch other people play in them- seems a little outdated to me. Then there are games, which are my medium but still I play so much in digital- I want to be IN a game. Carly was thinking along the exact same lines, and wait until you see the crazy stuff we’re coming up with. Carly and I agree on a bunch of things:

  • We’re not building this for an audience to sit and watch (though they can if they feel like it) our guests are players. Our actors are Non-Player-Characters

  • At no point will we stop the evening to make people watch a story unfold. You want a story, you have to find it.

  • Players should have agency in this story

  • There are multiple levels of entry, if people want to just dance or just listen to the music. Or even just sit and drink martinis and not engage in the story at all, they’ll still have an excellent evening.

  • One key part is that everyone is IN this world. We are all in a club in 1939- everyone is complicit. 

Our cast is ready to go and we’ve already started on some great character workshops trying to figure out- how exactly do you make something that’s not quite a LARP and not quite a play. I know Carly and I are in lockstep because when people tell her “it’s like Dinner Theater?” she says “NO!!!!” And so do I- because you can’t affect a dinner theater story, but Drosselmeyer- who knows what will happen. Even we don’t know what will happen. And that’s what makes it so wonderful and terrifying. That’s also why nobody else does it this way- what self-respecting artist is willing to give up their story to chance like that??!! Well apparently we are. 

Stay tuned, folks, it’s coming along!!! We’re not sure what it will come out like, but we know that it will be like nothing you’ve ever played before!

Introducing...Club Drosselmeyer!

Hello folks! This is my first blog installment for GREEN DOOR X, a series of immersive theater-type projects Green Door is doing in 2016. In this particular post, I’ll tell you a little about how things are going with Club Drosselmeyer, which will happen in December 2016- you can also learn more at www.clubdrosselmeyer.com and sign up for our mailing list to get updates. 

So first: what’s CLUB DROSSELMEYER? You may have recognized the name Drosselmeyer as “Herr Drosselmeyer”, the mysterious uncle from the Nutcracker- the one who does magic and builds life-size mechanical dolls. I always wondered why the rest of the show was about Clara and the Nutcracker since clearly uncle Drosselmeyer is where the story is. 

Well don't worry- in this project, Drosselmeyer gets his due. It’s December, 1939 and you’re on the list for Club Drosselmeyer, the hottest night club in town, owned by none other than the famous Herr Drosselmeyer: inventor, scientist, statesman, magician. You’ll be dressed in your 1939 best- black tie of course- sip martinis with the swells, dance to the sweet sound of the Silver Slipper Big Band and watch the floor show with an international flare! (dances like Chocolate and Coffee with sugar plum fairies, waltzes of flowers…)

But wait... there seem to be a lot of things going on under the surface. It’s been rumored that Herr Drosselmeyer is working on some sort of highly advanced super soldier for the US Army known as “project nutcracker”.  The project is top secret but it seems like everyone knows about it and every nation wants that technology. After all, it is 1939, who what alliances will be made? Who knows what could happen?

Guests can get dressed up, watch the band, dance a little, have a martini, watch the floor show and have delightful evening full of music and dance. Or…they can follow clues, puzzles and riddles down the rabbit hole of multiple intrigues all happening beneath their noses in Club Drosselmeyer. They’ll eavesdrop, talk tocharacters, even pass along evidence that could change the course of the evening. Herr Drosselmeyer says “There are no audiences, only visitors, guests, friends and honored patrons, all are welcome at Club Drosselmeyer” so how you spend your evening is up to you! This isn't just a crazy idea, it's happening for reals... December 2016 at Club Oberon in Harvard Square. And I. am. so. excited.

The Proof of Concept

So how will we pull it off? Well I always say the best thing to build is the thing you CAN build- which means you use (and abuse) your existing resources. No need to try and plan a pie-in-the-sky project when you have resources to make something else happen.

My resources and community are largely in the swing and vintage world in Boston because for those of you who know me, I'm an addicted swing dancer. We have the swing dance community with BOSTON SWING CENTRAL, some incredible musicians and an arranger/bandleader with ROCCO AND THE STOMPERS and a group of people who are totally game for time travel and dressing like it’s 1939 with the GREATER BOSTON VINTAGE SOCIETY. Luckily these folks are all usually game for antics and adventures- that's why they're swing dancers, bandleaders and vintage buffs.

The big question was: would people go for this at all? I had about a month before Christmas events started happening where we could perform a teaser. The idea was to see if people would rally for this. First I went to Mike Hibarger of BSC (Boston Swing Central), who was actually pretty excited about it in his very understated “Mike excited” way. Jason Volk of the Greater Boston Vintage society said amiably that he had absolutely no idea what I was doing but it sounded pretty cool. Check. That meant we had two locations to perform a mini-preview: a GBVS Christmas party and a Swing Central christmas party.

Next… my musician friends. I knew that Beantown was playing at both of these Christmas dances and I wanted to see if we could get a swing version of one of the songs from the Nutcracker. Danny Fratina, head of Rocco and the Stompers and arranger for BEANTOWN SWING ORCHESTRA was willing to write the new music - and Beantown was willing to play it. Check #2.

And finally- dancing. This was a new conundrum for me - my only sister was getting married that month, meaning I could neither perform in nor choreograph this routine if we were going to release it in December during the BSC and GBVS holiday events. Enter KATIE PISELLI, dancer and choreographer extraordinaire from both BOSTON LINDY HOP and the 8:30 ACT. Katie was totally game for choreographing a dance of the sugar plum fairies in only a week or two.  (Yessss!) The fabulous dancers from my own BOSTON LINDY BOMB SQUAD were willing to fill the ranks and get the performance off the ground.

The result was this wonderful thing!!

Not bad for 5 weeks and a bunch of people who had no idea what I was up to, eh? We managed to get a band, arranger, announcer, choreographer, dancers, two performances and an enthusiastic audience all before Christmas- the busiest time of the year. So if the question was: will my community rally for this project? The answer is a resounding HELLS YES!! Did I mention how awesome my friends are?

So now... the real work begins. So sign up for our newsletter!! December is coming soon and we could use all the help we can get if we're going to pull this one off!