Impossible Theater Company stormed onto the scene last summer with an action-packed, supernatural-infused production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Now, they’re back this August with something that might seem totally different: a devised piece about what happens at the end of the world.
Artistic Director Nick Jonczak, along with cast members Ava Jackson, Heather Carter, and Alexandra Linn, spent eight months exploring the question: If you had one chance to be the person you’ve always wanted to be, what would you do? The result: [missed connections], an episodic performance combining dialogue with poetry and song in which four people grapple with the news that their worlds are about to end.
It could be seen as a logical next step for a director as ambitious as Jonczak, who debuted his company with one of the best-known works by one of the world’s greatest playwrights. But it could also represent a humble response to Macbeth’s compelling call to action, a continuing exploration of some of its deeper themes.
“After Macbeth, I kept thinking about fate and free will in my own life,” said Jonczak. “What if, just by being born into the natural world, we’re all part of an inescapable cycle of causality that we are powerless to affect? Our apocalypse in [missed connections] stems from an actual astronomical event, something that is built into the patterns of the universe. How far down does this predetermination go? How do my choices influence my fate, and vice versa?”
Jonczak and his cast sat down to brainstorm answers to these and other questions, then spent months generating scene material through a series of improvisational activities pertaining to their discussions. Some scenes were solidified through repeated performance, while others were written out. The work of other artists was often invoked when a cast member thought it particularly relevant, leading to the incorporation of different types of media in the final product. “I didn’t think that we’d end up here when we started the process,” said Jonczak. “I didn’t have an idea about the ending. I didn’t know what I wanted to look like; I just knew there were things I wanted to explore. We didn’t necessarily have the answers—not that we have the answers now, but I’m just excited to see where those questions have taken us. What has been the most exciting has been the unexpected. That’s why I love devised theater.”
Even on a structural level, [missed connections] lives on the threshold where destiny and possibility interact. Each night of the performance will feature a portion that isn’t scripted. “What [the audience] gets is a more alive experience,” Jonczak said. Not only could this lend a greater degree of truth and authenticity to the piece, but it may also provide opportunities for audience interaction, a choice, Jonczak hopes, that will blur the line between performer and viewer and empower the latter to explore in a way they may have never done during a piece of live theater.
Which is, at its heart, the entire point of [missed connections]. “Sure, we’re asking these big questions and we’re playing around with answers, but we’re not telling you what the answer is; only you have the answer,” Jonczak said. “We’re playing around with the answers and we’re giving the audience the opportunity to do the same—one chance to do the same.”
In keeping with ITC’s commitment to make high-quality art accessible to all, ticket prices are capped at $10. [missed connections] opens August 9th at The Fridge – 516 8th Street. SE, in Washington, DC, and runs through August 19, 2012. It plays Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 4 p.m; and Friday, August 17th at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets online.