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"Reboot" your idea of theater

Walking Shadow's latest production is part riddle room, part play, 100% Zoom.

Photos courtesy Walking Shadow Theatre.

After producing three plays with puzzles, it's little wonder that Walking Shadow Theatre was fearless in approaching its newest, "Reboot," which runs through Aug. 3. Not only did they adapt their interactive format to the digital platform, but as puzzle and scenic designer (and Walking Shadow executive director) David Pisa puts it, the theater company asked, "How can we create a real connection between distanced audience members? In fact, what is a show that can only work when people aren't in the same physical room together?"

The end result is an animated character mixed in with the six-person cast, collaborative puzzles for all different types of thinking, and a mission: help government agent Halo with her current investigation.

"We think we've come up with a show that's fully integrated in its medium—that would be impossible to recreate in a new version in real life," Pisa says.

While the show has a strict no spoilers policy, Pisa emphasizes the puzzles are designed to be fun, not aggravating. And some puzzles might not even be based in mechanics, thanks to playwright Derek "Duck" Washington.

"So much of the theater experience we are normally exposed to allows us opportunities to observe, but it is a lot rare for a show to require us to take some kind of action," Washington says. "I decided science fiction was a great medium to challenge people in a moralistic way, to build a story where our audience would need to think about complex questions, ethics, privilege and power."

Walking Shadow started brainstorming for "Reboot" soon after the pandemic hit, but the company wasn't going to set an opening date until they felt ready to open. That meant that even before official previews were up in June and July, the team had more than a month of playtests in addition to all the informal testing that happened during development. After all, while each performance runs about 90 to 105 minutes, they don't look the same night to night.

"The audience is constantly surprising us!" director John Heimbuch says. "Because different audiences approach the show in different ways, many elements of the show were signposted rather than scripted."

"We've also found more ways to give our actors the freedom to adapt to the energy of different audiences, and how to provide guidance on the puzzles in ways that feel organic," they add.

To take part in "Reboot," the creators say you need a functional webcam and microphone, an updated Zoom application, an internet connection and browser, a phone, and a desktop or laptop. So get your gear and get ready—as Agent Halo says, "Due to the sensitive nature of the information I have to relay, I will wait to reveal more until we can meet in person."


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