Magic, memories, and a mentalist. These three “M”s represent superpowers we all need to be exposed to these days. We stepped into the 2023 winter holiday season with Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show, and now we enter 2024 with magic of a different kind with Mindplay.
For some, you might be thinking this is a departure from Arena’s usual fare. On the contrary, Arena has welcomed many artists to grace our stages with unique theatrical performance art. In addition to many serious-minded one-person pieces, such as Kathleen Turner’s incredible performances in Red Hot Patriot and The Year of Magical Thinking, Jeanne Sakata’s powerful Hold These Truths, and the wonderful Benjamin Scheuer’s The Lion, Arena has hosted several pieces exploring improvisation and physical humor that keeps audiences on their toes and their minds alive.
Going way back, the comedy duo John Montieth and Suzanne Rand performed in the Kreeger in the 1982/83 and 1983/84 Seasons. They mixed comedy skits with improvisation, delighting audiences. Bill Irwin is a producer, a director, and famously known as a physical actor who many may recall from their childhood as Mr. Noodle. In 1985, the Kreeger stage witnessed his one-man piece The Regard of Flight, which made him one of America’s most well-known clowns. Another physical performer, Avner the Eccentric, shared his brand of comedy, clowning, and magic with Arena audiences in 1986 and 1992. All were Broadway successes for these shows and established careers in a variety of performance types. Mindplay has legitimate ambitions in this regard.
Arena Stage’s vision is to galvanize the transformative power of theater to understand who we are as Americans. Vinny DePonto adds his name to the notable list of artists with performances that expand beyond a plot-focused technique to help us open our minds and hearts to new ways of thinking. Realism is an important part of storytelling and yet the value of live performance is a joint experience in gathering. Moments are amplified by the sweat, breath, and presence of both those on the stage and in the house. Looking into our minds and memories builds a path toward understanding.
The human mind is a fascinating subject. Just what do we give away with our comments, our movements, our laughter? We may pride ourselves on being hard to read even as we are unknowingly giving clues out freely.
Kathleen Turner as Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking (2016/17 Season). Photo by C. Stanley Photography.
Ryun Yu as Gordon Hirabayashi in Hold These Truths (2017/18 Season). Photo by Chris Bennion for ACT-A Contemporary Theatre.
Photo of Benjamin Scheuer by Matthew Murphy.