Reality Theatre
in Galena, Illinois
The World of Charles Dickens Comes to Life

GALENA, ILLINOISHave you ever wanted to live the life of a character in an adventure or mystery book or motion picture? Have you ever watched PBS's Frontier House, The 1900 House, or Manor House and wondered what it would be like to participate in such a historical re-creation? Well, here's your chance. Now you can escape into another time and place, into the fantasy world of Charles Dickens' Victorian London. You will be caught up in a whirlwind of melodramamissing documents, escaped lunatics, long-lost relatives, unspeakable crimes, ghosts in the attic, and star-crossed lovers.

Bed-and-Breakfast inns in the historic Victorian community of Galena, Illinois now offer " Reality Theatre™ " productions of The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield in which participants re-create the London of Charles Dickens in the year 1862. It is a world of Victorian ladies and gentlemen, costermongers, Scotland Yard detectives, curmudgeons, sailors, servants, villains, thieves, rascals, and a murderer or two.

Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Galena (BBIG), the area innkeepers association, is teaming with PALLADIAN Interactive Theatre to extend the traditional dinner theatre concept to include an opportunity for the audience to participate as performers.

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

The events take place throughout the town of Galena, with participants lodging in one of the BBIG bed-and-breakfast inns. The DeSoto House Hotel will become for the duration the Red Goose Innwhich, in the words of Charles Dickens, "is found on one of those quaint streets one stumbles onto by accident when looking for a shortcut; it is one of those delightfully irregular inns where you go up and down steps out of one room into another and come on more rooms when you think you've seen them all; where there is a bountiful provision of halls and little passages where you find still older cottage rooms in unexpected places, with lattice windows covered with lacy frost."

Galena is a popular tourist destination because of the delightful 19th Century architecture of its homes and business buildings. The area boasts 43 bed-and-breakfast inns; sixteen of which are BBIG members: Admiral's Park Avenue, Aldrich Guest House, Ann's Snoop Sisters Inn, Annie Wiggins Guest House, Avery Guest House, Belle Aire Mansion and Guest House, Brierwreath Manor Bed and Breakfast, Captain Merry, Cloran Mansion, Farmers Guest House, Galena Log Cabin Getaways, Goldmoor Inn, Hawk Valley Retreat, Hellman Guest House, Queen Anne Guest House, and The Steamboat House. It is the perfect location for a community-wide Reality Theatre™ event, with up to 100 participants playing the characters in the drama.

Participants each receive a production package with a Playbook detailing their characters' background, goals, and resources. There is also a "penny dreadful" booklet: The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield, which relates the story up to the time where the drama begins. The Dickens Miscellany booklet includes historical background, an explanation of the British "pounds and shillings" monetary system, and a "Glossary of Proper Vocabulary for Refined Ladies, Gentlemen, and the University Educated."Or if you aren't so hoity-toity, there is the "Dictionary of Thieves' Cant, Scoundrel's Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence" with all the slang of the London underworld.

Participants also receive Victorian British "stage money"including real shillings, sixpence, and penniesas well as a facsimile reproduction of the London Illustrated News from December 1862 with clues to the mystery interwoven amid the original material.

There are up to ten plots unfolding simultaneously, and participants may be involved in more than one plot. The characters are rated by difficulty, with the easiest parts requiring little talent or experience, and major roles being much more involved.

There is no predetermined ending. Participants are given guidelines and goals, and after that whatever happens happens! 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."

The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield is currently available for corporate incentive travel and private group bookings this fall and winter, and a general admission production of the event is scheduled for Saturday, March 11, 2006.

According to BBIG committee member Mike Reese, "Few areas in the United States can capture the essence of Dicken's Victorian London the way Galena, Illinois can. So we, the Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Galena, are thrilled to be working in conjunction with PALLADIAN Interactive Theatre to bring you The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield. Come and join us for a murderously great time!"

Explore the actor within you.
Who knows? you might knock 'em dead

For more informationor to book private productions of Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield, please contact Kathie Farlow, Bed and Breakfast Inns of Galena (BBIG), 334 Spring Street, Galena, Illinois 61036orAlan Lance Andersen, PALLADIAN Interactive Theatre at (515) 388-5573.

TESTIMONIALS

"A terrific personal experience, giving participants a truly stimulating involvement in theatre." Martin Limbird, Iowa State University

"A delightful and stimulating intellectual exercise." Raymond A. Cornell, Licensed Private Investigator

"This is not the stuff of the couch potato ..." Finn Bullers, The Ames Daily Tribune

"I anticipated a lot of fun but think I got much more than I bargained for... I'll be laughing about some of the happenings for a little while to come!" Wendi Taylor, John Deere Credit Union

"The plot's more twisted than the cobwebs in an old lady's attic ..." Lori Nilles, The Daily Freeman-Journal

"Oh, the pageantry of it all!" Cindy Gabbert, SCCLP

 

 

Escape into another time and place, into the fantasy world
of Charles Dickens' Victorian London.

The growing popularity of "reality television" programmesespecially PBS's "Manor House" miniseriessuggests that there may be considerable public interest for our "reality theatre" format in which the public participates in a community-wide costumed historical re-creation of the world of Charles Dickens. The project comprise a three-day event featuring an evening performance of the interactive dramatization: The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield, or Murder in the Wakefield Family.

The authors have been producing audience-participation events in the United States since 1987. The company is owned by Alan Lance Andersen and David Gene Reed, who write the scripts and supervise the productions. Mr. Andersen is a past professional member of Mystery Writers of America.

PALLADIAN Interactive Theatre's "reality theatre" concept is to market travel, lodgings, fine dining, and participation theatre in one comprehensive package. We will be working with airlines, travel agencies, caterers, innkeepers, and local entertainers to promote private productions of The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield as a corporte incentive retreat. We will also work with historical societies, horse-drawn carriage operators, actors, and musicians in Illinois to provide a reasonably authentic re-creation of Victorian life.

PALLADIAN Interactive Theatre extends the traditional dinner theatre concept to offer much more than just dinner and theatre. It also gives the audience an opportunity to participate as performers. It's more like stepping through a time machine than attending a theatre event. There are no lines to memorize, and each drama never ends the same twicebecause participants improvise their lines while attempting to achieve the goals outlined in their playbooks.

The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield includes elements of mystery, intrigue, romance, suspense, and adventureall the ingredients of a Dickensian novel. Audience members have the opportunity to become 19th Century characters in a number of dynamic and complex mystery plots. It is a world of Victorian ladies and gentlemen, costermongers, Scotland Yard detectives, curmudgeons, sailors, servants, villains, thieves, rascals, and a murderer or two. Participants are caught up in a whirlwind of melodramamissing documents, escaped lunatics, long-lost relatives, unspeakable crimes, ghosts in the attic, and star-crossed lovers.

The show is set during the Christmas season of 1862, and we have facsimile reprints of the Illustrated London News from that year which incorporate clues to our mystery plots. We also have facsimile Victorian "stage money" banknotes, cheque books, birth and marriage certificates, and real vintage coins.

"In traditional theater, the audience assumes a reactive role, responding to the performance in a passive fashion," writes Jeff Wirth, author of Interactive Acting: Acting, Improvisation, and Interacting for Audience Participatory Theatre. "Interactive Theatre expands the experience of the audience by offering them a proactive role, in which they are invited to join as a collaborator in the creation of the performance.

"Interactive Theatre combines the richness of rehearsed material, the spontaneity of improvisation, and the empowerment of participation," writes Wirth. "It draws on acting and improvisation techniques, as well as techniques unique to the interactive form."

John Kennedy Melling, former editor of the British crime writer's Black Dagger series, author of several mystery related books, drama critic, and BBC broadcaster, said of the Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield, "My first impression was of the immaculate way they have prepared the package. The clever way they mingled seven compact stories held together, a winning use made of Dickens characters, names, and plots make for a compelling production, unique indeed. I stress the uniqueness, because while there are mystery companies in the States and more here in Illinois, they are all based on only one story. I know of NOTHING here remotely approaching this scheme. TERRIFIC!"

 

 

 

 

 


Descriptions of Characters

Photos from Past Productions

Wakefield in Britain

Wakefield in Galena Press Release

Wakefield Main Page