Designing a season is one of the primary responsibilities – and greatest joys – of being an artistic director. Since arriving at Arena Stage last summer, the question I’ve been asked the most is, “What is my artistic vision for this historic institution?” Specifically, what kind of shows do I plan to program? What types of conversations do I want to curate? How do I hope to put our audience in community with each other? They’re excellent questions, and I am delighted to whet your appetite with a peek into my curatorial mind with this thrilling addition to the 2023/24 Season, Vinny DePonto’s captivating and illuminating work in Mindplay.

With a genre of storytelling that tests the limits of our minds and our memory, Mindplay revels in our essential need to contextualize our thoughts and reveals the breadth of the collective human experience. As Vinny stated, “It’s not a magic show, but it is magical.”

Since first being drawn to Vinny’s work as a mentalist, I have admired his ability to tap into our most sacred hopes, secret dreams, and quiet vulnerabilities. In exploring his creations, I find myself more connected, more porous, and more able to see beyond the masks we wear, glimpsing, if only briefly, at the rich inner life of those around me.

Vinny’s unique storytelling delves into essential questions about the mind — how it honors and uplifts, protects, and distorts, begging us to, in turn, ask ourselves: What is the human impulse to reach toward magic, and how do we find magic in the everyday? These threads are woven throughout Mindplay, inviting us to contemplate the unknowable profundity of our own consciousness.

In recent years, we have collectively been reminded of the power of community and the importance of direct interaction. Here, the audience can not only interact with each other but also with the art and the artist. Mindplay is a testament to the magic that happens when we come together in shared spaces, exploring the depths of our humanity.

Vinny DePonto. Photo by Jeff Lorch, courtesy of Geffen Playhouse.

Photo of Hana Sharif by Cheshire Isaac.