The line between audience and activist blurs for Daemonologie at Pioneer village

By Brina David

Every Friday night, from September 29 through October 27, 2017, in historic Pioneer Village, audiences will be treated to the latest in immersive theater experiences in a show that blends magic, horror and the audience’s input to create a different outcome every time. Daemonologie tests not only the audience’s wits, but their ethics, and the end of the story depends on the choices the audience makes.

“There are no innocent bystanders.” say’s Margot Tate, Intramersive’s Managing Director and co-founder “You’re either part of the solution or complicit in the horror.” Daemonologie places the audience at the moment a witch hunt begins in a fictional village in New England 1680, where magic is real and the threat is imminent. Directed by Creative Director and co-founder, Carly Dwyer, Daemonologie is not merely a play – it’s a game as well.

Dwyer and Tate have teamed up with the City of Salem to bring their world to life in the historic Pioneer Village: Salem 1630 site, where every Friday night starting Sept 29 and running through October 27th, audiences become witch hunters who decide the fate of the people of this small town. “We are really interested in using activism as our driving theme,” remarked Dwyer. “We want our audience to know they have power, they have information, they can make a difference.”

Author Brina David sat down with Tate and Dwyer to talk more in depth about their upcoming production, Intramersive as a whole, and how they have incorporated local Salem culture into their business.

Brina David: I’m excited to talk about Daemonologie. Salem and witches go very much hand in hand, but why was this something you decided to move forward with? Was there another inspiration to push this project forward?

Carly Dwyer: The inspiration really came from the years we have spent working in the Salem tourism trade and how comfortable people are to be Monday morning quarterbacks in their views of the Puritans. The Europeans who settled this region were many things, but they were not easily shaken. Their everyday world would traumatize the average modern American. We wanted to take the world of the Puritans and try to realize their fears and ask an audience to try to make decisions in the climate the Puritans lived in. When we learned we could use Pioneer Village, the show concept started to come together.

Margot Tate: The first thing we decided was we didn’t want to make the show about Salem specifically. Witch trials were happening in Europe as well as other parts of New England. Connecticut and Boston both had their own witch hysteria which was largely unknown to non-historians. We wanted to create a fictional village that allowed us to use elements from both Europe, Connecticut, Boston and Salem to paint a wider picture of the Puritan world. We are taking advantage of an amazing resource in Pioneer Village: Salem 1630, to portray our fictional world. We are lucky to have such a beautiful, magical and haunting location; and even luckier to have a local government that supports the arts and small business. We also have a great cast of incredibly talented and professional actors, many of them are experts in the 17th century as well as experienced gamers.

Daemonologie comes to Pioneer Village in Salem this Fall

David: What should audience members expect/be prepared to do?

Dwyer: Come in a group and split up. The show is designed for the audience to feel comfortable to interact. Audience members will stay with one family the whole time, and learn the story from their perspective. Each family has different pieces of information and different biases on the various people in town. We encourage the audience to interact–our characters are as friendly and hospitable as the Puritans were. Learn about your family and feel empowered to speak up to either defend them or accuse them. We do want to make sure people know there is walking and standing and the terrain is wooded and dark. There will be lighting but there is an ambiance we are going for.

It sounds like every show could have a completely different ending.

Tate: What’s so exciting about Daemonologie is that the audience has the ability to change the storyline, but it has everything to do with their own actions. The challenge is that some audience members will have different information than others, and it will be up to them to speak up, or not. The group following one family may be privy to private conversations not experienced by other groups. Will they disclose this information or stay silent? If no audience member steps forward to be a part of the story, than ultimately an innocent character may die. If they step forward, they may save that person or the consequences may be more dire still. There are no innocent bystanders; you’re either actively involved in the outcome or complicit. We make no promises that the story will have a happy ending, but the audience has the ability to create any ending they wish.

David: Let’s talk a little bit about Intramersive Media. What is the passion that drives you and Intramersive?

Dwyer: As LARPers we have experienced what we call “in-body cognition” which is when we experience a situation we know cognitively is false but our body responds physically, we feel like we were there and the experiences were real. As theater people we see this all the time on shows with actors and directors, we take these characters into us and we put ourselves into their world, and while we never “become” our characters, we understand them, we develop empathy for them. We want to make this experience accessible to the theatre-going, game-playing audiences.

Tate: Ultimately I think we would like to be a household name, perhaps credited at the forefront of the immersive gaming movement. Our immediate goal is and always will be actor sustainability. We believe in crushing the stereotype of the struggling artist. We work very hard to make our budgets and pay structures transparent to our talent. Art as a whole is taken for granted and artists are treated as though they should suffer to do what they love, or it is not genuine. We don’t believe in offering roles for “exposure”. We ask a lot of our cast and so we pay them accordingly. Our goal is to portray art as the valuable commodity that it is.

David: What can we look forward to, from Intramersive?
Tate: We have some projects brewing that will have a wider audience than just New England and that is very exciting and we hope to unveil in 2018. Daemonologie is our baby and has been an amazing experience but we are not a company based around a single event. We are working on bringing many immersive theatre/gaming projects to the public, not all of which will have anything to do with Daemonologie. All I can say right now, is Beware the Ides of March.

If you haven’t bought tickets yet for Daemonologie, don’t put it off much longer! It sounds like Intramersive’s about to have another sold out event on their hands and you don’t want to miss out! Daemonologie will take place September 29th, October 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th at Pioneer Village. More details, individual showtimes and tickets are available at the company website www.intramersive.com

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