Live theater is not just for stages anymore.
Although sitting down in a comfortable chair to see a play or a musical will always be a classical part of the theater experience, today’s theater scene offers much more than just passive entertainment. Production companies, theaters and other organizations offer groups opportunities to have interactive encounters in some of the country’s hottest theater destinations.
Travelers who love getting in on the action themselves can find a variety of ways to go beyond being an audience member. In New York, numerous production companies participate in the Broadway Classroom program, which gives visitors the opportunity to learn about theater firsthand. And numerous other organizations have developed theatrical experiences that unfold in the city streets, allowing travelers to participate in an improvised show that unfolds in real time.
If you have theater buffs in your group, consider treating them to one of these interactive theater experiences.
History on Foot
Ford’s Theatre found permanent notoriety in Washington, D.C., and across the country when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated there. Today, the building serves as both a historic site and a working theater, and offers a number of interesting theater experiences for groups.
In addition to a scheduled season of full-length plays, the theater runs two historical productions that deal with Lincoln’s life, death and legacy. In addition to these shows at the building, though, groups can take a tour with the theater staff that teaches them more about the Lincoln story.
“We have a history-on-foot tour called ‘Investigation Detective McDevitt,’” said director of education Sarah Jenkins. “Detective James McDevitt was a real police detective in Washington in 1865, and the tour takes the group through the investigation that he did on the night of Lincoln’s assassination.”
The two-hour tour begins in front of the theater and ends at the White House. Along the way, an actor playing the role of McDevitt walks guests through the process of unraveling the conspiracy that led to Lincoln’s death. The tour highlights Washington as it would have been in 1865, with a script written to blend sightseeing and drama.
“It’s a piece of theater, written for us by a playwright,” Jenkins said. “It’s rehearsed and directed, and there’s an element of dramatic imagination.”
As the world’s leading theater destination, New York is chock full of great performers, directors, choreographers and musicians, as well as theater fans and groups that love learning about Broadway. The innovative Broadway Classroom program brings those two constituencies together, giving visitors a chance to have their own theater experience with the help of Broadway professionals.
“Broadway Classroom offers about 17 different types of workshops, anything from improv to stage combat, singing, dancing and music classes,” said Heather Jones, director of the Broadway Classroom program for parent company Group Sales Box Office/Broadway.com. “We have a hands-on tech class where people can discover what it takes to put on the shows; they become the director, manager and costume designers, and put on a show at the end of two hours.”
The workshops range in length from 90 minutes to two hours, and are customized to the interests of the visiting groups. Many student groups enjoy learning a popular song and dance from a current Broadway show; adult groups often have question-and-answer sessions with Broadway performers where they gain insights about the craft.
Groups often coordinate their Broadway Classroom sessions to correspond with a show they’ll be seeing in New York.
“We’ll bring in cast members from the show, and they’ll learn the music and choreography that they’re going to see onstage,” Jones said.