An old, historic mansion silently rests just a short drive outside the city of Philadelphia. Peer through the windows and you’ll witness a congregation of individuals all dressed as elegantly as the space surrounding them. The Order of Mammon has come together tonight because the rumors are true: the Bumblefish has died (again). For the next hour and a half, audience members, taking on the role of the invited “Acolytes”, must now cast their vote to elect the new Bumblefish to lead the Order. Part immersive theater and part performance art, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre’s production of The Fleecing is a whimsical exploration of a currency based system where rules and order might not be entirely rational.
Once inside, the hosts of the evening can be found solemnly positioned by the bar. If you craft your words carefully enough, you’ll be able to extract some verbal details on who they are and their role within the Order of Mammon. But don’t completely admit your lack of knowledge on the Order, as you might a receive a look of bewilderment in return.
When The Fleecing begins at the strike of a gong, your duty as an Acolyte is explained and precious “Uranium” is distributed – small pieces of rock nestled together in a soft, sheer pouch. Sprawled throughout the space are the talented Devotees, the most skilled and mesmerizing performers ready to earn the most Uranium and prove why they alone are worthy to be crowned Bumblefish. As you navigate the dreamlike labyrinth of dark basement corridors softly illuminated by colored hues of light, you’ll encounter the different Devotees patiently ready. A hypnotic dancer. A quasi-clairvoyant that can channel a number of personalities. An audio-sensory guru. It becomes a challenge in itself to experience everything them all when a whole show could be spent with one, especially if begin to establish a connection.
In front of each Devotee lie two distinct altars to choose between.
Chaos or Order. Earth or Moon.
Like a coin-operated machine, the Devotees leave their meditative trance and begin their mental or physical feat the moment you place your Uranium. It’s easy to become entranced by the performance in front of you, forgetting that you can leave at any moment and discover another Devotee waiting for you in their own unique and intimate space hidden somewhere within. There’s a great amount of experimentation at play when you decide which of the two altars you will select; as their performance can change depending on your choice of placement.
“What happens if I place a piece on the other altar? What happens if I place a second piece? Should I save what I have left on a different act?”
These are the intriguing questions that keep you strategizing over how best to disperse the limited currency you are given and discovering how much control you have in the art of the performance. The show doesn’t end for you when you run out of Uranium though. Connect with the right Order member wandering in the shadows and you might be able to replenish your supply by finding or earning more. But they won’t make it easy.
Your journey through The Fleecing is only affected by where you decide to take it. Explore. Discover. Reward It’s rare to encounter this type of installation experience with not only a variety of incredible and passionate artists, but a hilarious and well-scripted narrative wrapped around it.
Who will you crown as the new Bumblefish?
Though the latest production of The Fleecing has ended, history has shown that another Bumblefish may be needed in due time.. For more information on Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and their future productions, you can check out their website, Facebook, and instagram. Check back at Haunting for more coverage on East Coast immersive theater.