The LA-based theater company The Speakeasy Society, founded by CalArtians, presents its next installment of an immersive theater series about the land of Oz in The Kansas Collection: Chapter 5 - The Vow. The upcoming production will run for three weekends throughout August at the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale.
The 10-part, epic fictional-fantasy series The Kansas Collection is inspired from the Land of Oz children's novels by L. Frank Baum, which also brought about the 1939 classic film, The Wizard of Oz.
Chapter 5 - The Vow serves as the midseason finale of the saga. Wherein previous chapters were approximately 20 to 30 minutes in length, Chapter 5 runs 90 minutes. The audience is invited to attend a royal wedding, complete with an open bar, hors-d'oeuvres and an elaborate Oz-ian wedding ceremony. Although The Vow is the fifth piece of The Kansas Collection, The Speakeasy Society has also developed a unique track to catch up new audience members on previous chapters of the story.
Here's a quick recap of the series' first four chapters:
- The Kansas Collection's first chapter—The Key—was first mounted in 2016. It set the universe for the "key" characters in the land of Oz, but with a dark twist. Oz is in turmoil as the Scarecrow king is losing his sanity; civil unrest is leading to the rise of a patchwork rebellion; and Dorothy is under pursuit.
- In Chapter 2 - The Axe, the dark action resumes with the audience being interrogated, and then relocated, to a grotesque chamber with a torture session taking place between Glinda ("The Good Witch of the South") and Tinman.
- Chapter 3 - The Door returns to Kansas, where Dorothy must be convinced to face her fears and go back to save Oz.
- Chapter 4 - The Invitation starts with Dorothy finally being captured and taken prisoner by Scarecrow. The resistance has suffered immensely. The Scarecrow King announces that Oz is entering a phase of “unprecedented prosperity and peace” and his wedding to Phoebe Daring will take place in Kansas.
Michael Bates (MFA Theater 14) who plays the character Jack Pumpkinhead says that the immersive theater production and the different interactions with the audience keeps actors on their toes. "You get to develop a real connection with the person in front of you—if only for a little bit," Bates writes in an email. "Since we have scripted material for almost every situation, there are a lot of lines to memorize, it becomes really exciting when you get to use a bit of dialogue that doesn't come up often. It really keeps the performance fresh as it is constantly adapting and evolving. Basically, every night is a totally unique experience!"
Co-founded by School of Theater alums Julianne Just (MFA 12), and Genevieve Gearhart (MFA 13) and Matthew Bamberg-Johnson (MFA 13), The Speakeasy Society earned LA Weekly’s 2015 title of “Best Emerging Immersive Theater Company.”
A number of CalArtians are involved in the production of The Vow:
- Matthew Bamberg-Johnson as Phillip Daring
- Michael Bates as Jack Pumpkinhead
- James Cowan as Tinman
- Genevieve Gearhart as Pheobe Daring
- Christie Harms (MFA Theater 13) as General Jinjur
- Zan Headley (BFA Theater 13) as Private Joe Files
- John Henningsen (MFA Theater 15) as Lyman
- Nikhil Pai (MFA Theater 12) as Tik Tok
- Jessica Rosilyn (MFA Theater 13) as Lion
The cast also includes Natalie Fryman as Glinda, Terence LeClere as Scarecrow King, and John McCormick as The Wizard.
The Speakeasy Society returns to CalArts to perform Chapter 1 The Kansas Collection during CalArts Weekend. Tickets will be on sale later this month.
- Daniel Loyola