Stageworks Media Presents SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE: THE BROTHERS BOOTH
Stageworks Media presents Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Brothers Booth -- an immersive, time-traveling theatrical experience created by Cynthia von Buhler and directed by Wes Grantom (Eager to Lose at Ars Nova). Ms. von Buhler's Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Bloody Beginning, has over the past two years become one of the city's most unique, interactive, and surreal theatrical experiences. Once again, Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Brothers Boothbrings Ms. von Buhler's unique brand of historic fiction investigation to the legends of John Wilkes and Edwin Booth. Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Brothers Booth will be performed on the first Saturday of the month beginning in March, 2014 at The Players Club (16 Gramercy Park South). The press opening is Saturday, March 1st at 8:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit www.speakeasydollhouse.com.
According to Speakeasy Dollhouse creator Cynthia von Buhler, "Edwin Booth, a staunch Lincoln supporter, was honored by the president -- and even saved Lincoln's son Robert from being crushed by a train shortly before the president's assassination. Edwin, the more successful actor, divided the map allowing John Wilkes the opportunity to only perform in the South, while he ruled in the more desirable North. Every book I read on the family claimed that John Wilkes was his parent's favorite. Their mother, Mary Ann, constantly told the boys of her prophesies about their destiny, leading them to become self-fulfilling. My research has led me to believe that Abraham Lincoln may have been murdered as a result of sibling rivalry, and not because of John Wilkes' great love of the confederacy. The Brothers Booth encourages audiences to roam Edwin Booth's former mansion in search for the truth. Utilizing Shakespearean themes, longtime conspiracy theories, and surreal vignettes, Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Brothers Booth weaves together a story of the brothers' troubled lives."
The Speakeasy Dollhouse experience begins with a series of emails from Cynthia von Buhler featuring actual news articles, investigative dollhouse recreations and a password. The audience will whisper the password to a newsboy outside Edwin Booth's Greek Revival mansion -- now home to The Players, a real-life club for luminaries of all eras from Mark Twain and John Singer Sargent to Liza Minnelli and Jimmy Fallon. Ushered via a secret entrance into the club's opulent ballroom, they are swept into a splendorous scene: The November 13, 1919 gala unveiling of a life-sized bronze statue of Edwin, a legendary Shakespearean actor and the club's founder.
Newsboys announce the statue unveiling along with other breaking news: the Volstead Act has been passed and the John Wilkes Booth mummy has been stolen from the circus. Bootleg cocktails, burlesque, gambling, live jazz and séances are staples of the evening's festivities. Scandals abound. The troubled relationship between handsome and impetuous John Wilkes and brilliant but brooding Edwin unravels as a series of surreal vignettes which swirl around partygoers and echo throughout the many rooms of the mansion. Because guests have the freedom of movement and to initiate interactions in the space, each experience is unique. While it pays not to be shy, even those who wish only to observe will be surrounded by eye-raising conversation, haunting music, dramatic performance, and evocative puppetry. A few guests will be ushered, one at a time, to Edwin Booth's dark bedroom, undisturbed since his passing in 1893.
Artist and author Cynthia von Buhler is the creator of the Speakeasy Dollhouse series. Her first play, The Bloody Beginning, is an immersive theatrical hit that explores the murder of von Buhler's Italian immigrant grandfather, Frank Spano. A speakeasy owner, Spano was shot and killed on a Manhattan street in 1935. Though the shooter was caught, his case was inexplicably dismissed, leaving the question of motive forever unanswered. Long haunted by the mystery, von Buhler, whose mother was born the day her grandfather died, began interviewing family members about the killing and scouring autopsy reports, police records, and court documents. Inspired by a 1940s investigative technique called "nutshell studies," von Buhler first recreated the crime scene in an elaborate dollhouse diorama (which can be explored on location during each performance). Von Buhler brought her miniature set to life in Speakeasy Dollhouse, which was first intended to be a one-night theatrical staging (funded via Kickstarter). It has since become a hot underground theater ticket, consistently sold out, since it began in 2011.