BWW Review: HT DARLING'S INCREDIBLE MUSAEUM at Submersive Productions Explores Life on Another Planet
Immersive theater has been an idea I've heard good things and bad things about but haven't had any real experiences with. I know the general idea - you're sort of dropped into this world and you have to react based on what's going on around you. It's a creative and equally terrifying prospect for actors I'm sure. I can't imagine relying on what random people are saying or doing to shape my character, but that's why they are actors and I am not. After hearing all of these things and never seeing them for myself, I thought it was about time I experienced this type of creativity first hand, and lucky for me Submersive Productions was setting up shop in the Peale Museum in Baltimore City for their next immersive theater experience.
HT DARLING'S INCREDIBLE MUSAEUM is SP's new production that immerses the audience in a "cabinet of curiosities populated by live actors and puppets." The story line is a simple yet creative one. HT Darling - the legendary explorer - has just returned from the planet of New Galapagos and is displaying the numerous artifacts he's brought back from the planet for the very first time. His collection of curiosities were definitely a sight to see and a highlight for this crafter. Each item in his collection was created by artists using everyday objects like glass jars, crystals, wires, or cardboard, and yet they each looked like they could really have existed on some other alien planet. I couldn't stop examining them and trying to determine just how they were made. The time and energy spent on these objects really brought the museum and the experience to life.
While perusing the objects, you were introduced to a few of the characters roaming through the museum, including HT Darling himself. Some would interact with you, while others were wandering through in the background. When we, the museum goers, first entered we were warned about interacting and chatting with the "inhabitants" of the museum. We were instructed to not engage with any of the museum inhabitants, unless they engage with us first. When these "inhabitants" started talking to me, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. It was a little disconcerting for me, and exhilarating for the performers I'm sure. They were basically in charge of this strange situation, and were clearly dedicated to their roles.
That's what I found most intriguing about the evening. The dedication of these performers. They had a script, and yet at any time things could change at the drop of a hat and they just had to roll with it. And roll they did. At one point, a few children were understandably a bit concerned about what was really happening and if the objects were really "poisonous" as we were told (they weren't) and one performer went out of her way to chat with them and try to put them at ease. However, she stayed cleverly in character the entire time. It definitely was a feat of performance art that the cast pulled off brilliantly.
With something as new and different as this production, I feel I need need to provide a few caveats though. I was a bit disconcerted by, when or if some "inhabitant" was going to speak to me or try to interact with me. This was such a concern that I found myself changing course each time a performer even looked in my general direction. I'm sure this wasn't the point of the evening, but avoidance was my first reaction. Also, at one point another attendee followed a "guest" he was not supposed to and managed to find himself in another room entirely, away from his companions for a good 10 minutes. He seemed a lot calmer about the ordeal than I would have been.
Overall everyone I met was kind and the performers went out of their way to give us a production we wouldn't forget. So if you are up for new experiences and are better at rolling with strange occurrences than I, in fact, am, I would highly recommend you visit HT DARLING'S MUSEAUM. If you're a wall-flower like me that prefers your performers on a stage, this may not be your cup of tea. But do try it anyway, after all HT Darling traveled to a whole new planet in a different galaxy, you're surely capable of visiting a museum in Baltimore.