Last week, Sarah had the chance to speak with producer and director Lyndsie Scoggin, producer and artistic director Danielle Levesque, and writer Nick Rheinwald-Jones to discuss all things related to THE SIDESHOW, what drew them to dive into the circus life of 1930’s, and tips and tricks for both new and old alike on how to enjoy the full depth of their experience.

Nightmarish Conjurings: For someone who did not know about the Kickstarter, how would you describe THE SIDESHOW? 

Nick Rheinwald-Jones: THE SIDESHOW is a one-hour immersive show that delves deeply into the memories of 1930’s circus performers. Audience members will become part of the story, getting to know our characters and their secrets through a mixture of intimate encounters and larger theatrical scenes. In all, the experience of THE SIDESHOW will provide plenty of laughter, surprises, and genuine emotional connection…not to mention wine and dessert!

Nightmarish Conjurings: I find it incredibly exciting that CoArt Productions is focusing on the Great Depression era as the time period this immersive experience takes place in. What specifically drew you to the 1930’s as a backdrop for the story? 

Lyndsie Scoggin: Foremost, the early 1900’s are so stylistically appealing. Between the clothing, the music, and even the way that the people talked, it’s hard not to fantasize about what it may have been like to live then. It was also such an interesting time in American history. Our story takes place at the peak of The Great Depression during prohibition. It’s fascinating to explore the effect these politics may have had on our characters.

Nightmarish Conjurings: There isn’t much out there that specifically dives into the transition of circus culture as the Great Depression took hold. Except for maybe HBO’s Carnivale. This piece focuses on two circus performers. What inspired you to focus on circus culture? 

Danielle Levesque: When thinking about escapism and unique environments, the circus was the first thing that came to mind. I believe the circus is universally and endlessly fascinating to most people. During the early 1900’s, it served as an affordable outlet for people to escape the very predominant struggles they were faced with day to day. Much like Carnivale, we were interested in the stories of the people who lived and worked at the circus, just trying to get by. Though their performances helped others forget their troubles, we wondered what difficulties they themselves faced. What were their lives like beyond the circus?

Nightmarish Conjurings: This isn’t the first time that you have used history as a backdrop for your immersive experience. What is it about historical events and time periods that pull you in and continue to fuel your creative fire? 

NRJ: When creating a compelling immersive experience, we find that it’s incredibly helpful to have historical and pop-cultural influences as a foundation because it anchors the story and characters and also helps to set some initial expectations for the audience so they have at least some idea of what they’re getting into. With Safehouse ’77, we had the 1970’s L.A. party scene and spy movies; with THE SIDESHOW, we’ve got Depression-era circuses and screwball comedies. Once that foundation is set, we can then subvert those expectations and influences in all sorts of entertaining and surprising ways. We can take the kinds of larger-than-life characters and stories that exist in people’s shared historical and cultural memories and bring them down to a level where they feel real and accessible. But more generally, we love the escapist aspect of immersive theater, and we think that when you’re transporting an audience into a different time period, it’s much easier to enable them to leave the real world (and their phones!) behind.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Because the focus is on a traveling circus, we would assume that the performance would focus on a circus company of sorts. However, as was revealed in your Kickstarter, the performance will be focusing on just two characters. What went into the decision to have the performance focus solely on Nora Laurello and Clovis Schilling?

LS: THE SIDESHOW takes place in a time where people were rather desperate, so we’ve designed this experience around the idea that everyone has their own motives. Specifically, we wanted to explore what effect it may have had on their relationships as they try their best to get by. Nora and Clovis reflect on this, re-encountering each other through the memory of their time together in the circus.

Nightmarish Conjurings: What advice would you have to give to both newbies to immersive theatre and veterans on how to get the most out of THE SIDESHOW?

DL: This narrative is highly driven by the idea that our circus performers are actually in need of something. Listen carefully to their stories. Not only will these characters challenge your expectations, but there may be secrets hidden beneath the surface. Are they being honest, or are they putting on a show? In the end, it will be for you to decide.

For more information on THE SIDESHOW and to purchase tickets, visit SIDESHOW will be running from August 17-26 at an undisclosed location in Glendale.

Sarah Musnicky
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