Welcome to “Club Drosselmeyer,” a holiday pop up combining Tchaikovsky’s "Nutcracker," swing dancing, military technology and World War II into a theatrical event set in 1939.
This interactive, immersive, game-based experience unfolds this December at American Repertory Theatre’s Oberon. It’s produced by Cambridge’s Green Door Labs, a gaming company that creates experiences played in physical spaces, rather than on a console, and has developed games for the Smithsonian, Boston’s Children’s Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“This is the first time we’ve done anything involving actors,” says Green Door Labs CEO, Kellian Adams. “It was a big leap of faith. But I’ve been watching this kind of interactive immersive theater happen across the country. It’s a small scene, but there are productions in L.A., New York and Chicago.”
The Oberon embraces several immersive productions — like ”The Donkey Show” and “Old School Game Show,” which put their audience members in the action. However, not all immersive productions’ plots are dependent on the variables of audience interaction. For “Club Drosselmeyer,” the plot of military technology, scientific discovery and political eruptions are woven into a story that is part Nutcracker and part Captain America, but with swing dancers. And it’s up to the audience to be the players.
“You are still watching things unfold, but you have the power to direct the action: the story line responds to you,” explains Adams. “As a game designer going into a space you have to figure out how to break the theatre’s fourth wall.”
Production partners include Greater Boston Vintage Society, which provided costumes and set pieces, and Boston Swing Central. Local musician Danny Fratina, who will be playing with his band, Rocco and the Stompers, rearranged Tchaikovsky’s score in swing time.
“The floor will be open for dancing all night while the story unfolds around you,” adds Adams.
But why set the action in 1939? “I am a history buff, and 1939 was an incredible year all round,” Adams says. “The Depression was winding down, Hitler invaded Poland, Hollywood lifted some restrictions, and it was one of the best years for movies. The fashion was iconic. But there was this feeling of impending doom. We include the good and the bad.”
Taking part in the action is optional, but Adams insists everyone dresses like it’s 1939. If you need help, the “Club Drosselmeyer” website has suggestions.
“We want to put you in 1939; we want you to dress up,” she adds. “Doing it at Christmas is the best time for this. People are more open to magic around the holidays.”
If you go
Dec. 11 & 16
2 Arrow St., Cambridge
Tickets start at $45, clubdrosselmeyer.com
For the rest of the best entertainment in Boston during the holidays, visit our Winter Arts Guide.