We Got Reassigned in The Speakeasy Society’s “Kansas Collection” – Chapter 4 – The Invitation
Things have improved for the land of Oz. Prosperity is returning, peace is at hand, pesky rebel factions who fought against the Scarecrow King are no longer a concern… all is well, right? Chapter 4 in The Speakeasy Society’s Kansas Collection paints a rosy picture, but nothing in this ongoing serialized tale playfully twisting the Oz mythology is ever simple.
Once again, the chapter begins with a greeting from Lyman (John Henningsen), a character we have encountered before. He’s a mischievous host who has both delighted and frustrated us with humor, clues and possible misinformation. He reminds us that our actions have consequences and that there are choices at hand. This quick, delightful conversation provides a welcome but also contains a hint of foreboding.
Private Joe Stiles (Zan Headley) greets us with a few questions and observations about current events in both Kansas and Oz. He explains the Dorothy has been captured and inquired if we had witnessed this act… we had, indeed, in the previous chapter. Private Stiles explains that we, as former members of the militia, are going to be reassigned to some duties helping out a couple of prisoners who are preparing for a very important upcoming event in Oz.
Russell: A kingdom needs to adjust to new landscapes after war, correct? It seems logical we could be of use in more community-service oriented tasks. Private Stiles motions us forward and we encounter two new characters, Jack (Michael Bates) and Tik (Nikhil Pai). These are the prisoners we will be assisting. The premise allows for each patron to enter a one on one conversation with either the character of Jack or the character of Tik. Of course, those familiar with the Oz mythology will recognize those names. Each patron is pulled aside and given a private conversation where information is shared about the true state of affairs, and why exactly these two characters now the only two surviving prisoners. As Tik pulled me aside and Jack pulled Mike to the other side of the room, it immediately heightened the tension… I wanted to know if Mike was being told the same information as I, and if he trusted Jack… and can I trust Tik?
Mike: Before meeting our new friends, I was a bit worried as they were prisoners. Would we be safe? Why were they prisoners? Why were there only two of them? These and about a hundred other questions went through my mind as we were waiting for them to be ready for us. Luckily, my “safe” question was answered immediately as we walked in and started chatting with Jack and Tik. We were in no danger, well…no physical danger at least.
Russell: My conversation with Tik was highly energetic and completely entertaining. We formed a quick bond as friends, and he was very willing to share information with me once he felt he could trust me. With wonderful timing, he asked a question and I gave a slightly incorrect answer… so Tik called me out… he put me on the spot, it seemed, to prove myself! I quickly explained why I would’ve gotten the answer wrong and he seemed to accept my reply and began to impart even more information. That kind of on-the-spot improvisation is one of the things that has made the Kansas Collection a fun adventure to participate in. The scene even allowed me to express concern about a plan Tik described which seemed, at best, questionable. Immediately, my concerns were dealt with, another nice turn by the actor.
Mike: I couldn’t agree more. The Speakeasy Society has a knack at finding actors who have amazing improv skills. In a piece such as this, you need that. You’ll have some people being really engaged, asking questions about their lives, and then you’ll have people who just want to listen…and everyone in between. Having those skills will make sure the super engaged people leave happy as well as the casually engaged. They don’t just repeat scripts to every person. They tailor it to who they’re speaking with (“with”, not “to”, it makes a huge difference). Because of this, my conversation with Jack was fantastic. He told me secrets and stories of things that have happened lately. This is one of my top interactions so far in The Kansas Collection (Don’t worry Ozma, you’re still my number one). To me, this didn’t feel like a show. It was someone sharing what they knew with a concerned new friend.
Russell: Chapter 4 makes a return to the intimate feeling of the earliest chapters. Chapter 3 revealed a lot of information, but lacked some of the intimate charm of the earlier chapters. It became more of a play with alternate endings, Chapter 4 definitely builds the idea that this is the quiet before the storm and the information shared in hushed tones is obviously affected by the choices you made with each question and turn of phrase. It’s quite fun and quite exciting. Mike, we were both so involved, I noticed each of us trying to offer some form of hope or comfort to the person we had just spent time with and had risked opening up to us. To me, it’s a testament to the commitment of this cast that we wanted to help them in some way… we became part of their story.
Mike: Exactly Russell. We are just as much a part of this story as they are. Everything we do or say, the choices we make, can change the future. Having these conversations, being present, paying attention, it just makes everything feel so amplified. You leave this show with a sense of pride and even though other people may have the same information you have, you can’t help but feel you’re the only one that really knows what it is.
Russell: I can guess the serialized chapter structure Speakeasy Society is experimenting with here may not be for everyone, each show is less than a half an hour and a lot of information is usually dumped very quickly on the patron. Remembering details and choices from the past can sometimes be a challenge as you’re trying to think on your feet. However, the rewards are many. Also, Chapter 4 proved extremely accessible to those who had missed any of the previous chapters. I was asked a couple of times specific questions about the history being unfolded, the performer definitely wanted to make sure I understood the story before continuing. It was seamless and completely in character. Near the end of Chapter 4, I was given a piece of information that I will have to use if I decide to return for future chapters… I must admit, I’m hooked and I want to know where the next chapter leads.
Mike: Unfortunately, the rest of the run of Chapter 4 is now sold out, but this chapter, along with Chapters 1-3, will be remounted in 2018, right before Chapter 5. So you have another chance to catch up on all things Kansas!