Palladian Interactive Theatre extends the traditional dinner theatre concept to include much more than the dinner and the theatre - it also lets the audience be the performers!

It's more like stepping through a time machine than attending a conventional theatre.

There are no lines to memorize, and each drama never ends the same twice - because participants improvise their lines while attempting to achieve the goals outlined in their Playbooks.

Our playwrights have been producing audience-participation events in the Midwest since 1987. The Iowa based company is owned by Alan Lance Andersen and Dave Gene Reed, who write the scripts and supervise the productions.

Playwrights Al Andersen and Robert Cook are both professional members of Mystery Writers of America. Their dramas include elements of mystery, intrigue, romance, suspense, and adventure. "Our dramas are based on the assumption that there is a little actor in everyone," said Andersen, "and we have been proved right time-after-time."

The company hosts dramas in a variety of locations. These have included restored Victorian mansions, century-old private clubs, and elegant historical hotels; complete with authentic costumes and props. Plans are also in the works for shows on Mississippi River steamboats, windjammer schooners in New England, cruise ships en route to the Bahama Islands, and a baronial castle in Scotland. Several of the newer shows include a treasure hunt in which participants have the opportunity to find and keep treasure worth thousands of dollars!

The company places a great deal of emphasis on historical accuracy. The stage props for these historical dramas include authentic reproductions of period stock certificates, currency, and identification papers. There are actual magazines, newspapers, and period music for the date on which each production is set. For the gangster scenario, the Theatre has badges, handcuffs, and a full-sized Thompson submachine gun (a non-firing stage replica, of course).

Participants in each production receive a Playbook with instructions, character descriptions, historical background, and slang dictionary for the period. In some cases, the playwrights have written entire short stories for each character.

The playwrights try to create archetypal characters that guests can identify with easily. This enables participants to get into character while at the same time allowing a great deal of flexibility for individual interpretation. Playwright Robert Cook sums it up. "We've gotten to know the characters so well, and yet they always surprise us. Every group of guests plays it completely different."

Each drama is written with at least seven plots going on simultaneously, and each guest may be involved in one or more plot. The story lines create high levels of dramatic tension among the characters. Once the production starts, players are expected to be in character continuously until the end.

The group has produced roleplaying dramas set in Chicago of 1929, Washington, D.C., during the Kennedy era, and San Francisco circa 1938. "We are now writing a Mississippi steamboat era drama, a Dickensian drama set in London of 1862, and a country-house murder/treasure hunt set in 1956. Our Romance Incognito cruise to the Bahamas is based more on romantic comedies of the 1940s than on murder mysteries," said playwright Paul Hollander.

Some of the productions are designed for a single evening, while others last for an entire weekend. "We find it is difficult to maintain intense levels of dramatic tension for long periods of time, so the plots for the longer dramas are less intense but contain puzzles and treasure hunts that take time to solve," said Andersen.

Palladian Interactive Theatre lets you explore the actor within you.

Who knows - you may knock 'em dead ...

Alan Lance Andersen vitae