Bringing Theater to the Street
Accomplice is an unusual theater experience– part game, part mystery theater, part walking tour (through little-known labyrinths specific to each cityscape). In true Clue-like form, the participants and the location are as integral to the outcome of the story as the actors involved. Co-founder Tom Salamon tells us how he turned a great idea into an unusual celebration of place-based art…
How did you come up with the concept for Accomplice?
About six years ago, my sister and I were on a walking tour of Lower Manhattan with our parents. We’d been living in New York for years and just decided to go and do this. And while [what we saw] was really interesting, the tour itself was not particularly dynamic or engaging. After discussing the experience a few days later, we thought there could be a more interesting way to visit all of these little nooks and crannies—where actors could be planted throughout [the tour] and a story could play out in these really interesting, quirky locations throughout the city.
Did either of you have a specific interest in theater?
No, it was just one of those stories where it was seemingly a good idea that came up and that we followed through on. The process itself took about six months but we weren’t looking at it with long-term goals in mind. We would meet occasionally to discuss new ideas and talk about what was inspiring in terms of stories. So, it took while but it wasn’t our main focus; we both had other careers. After we put on that first show, in late 2004, people reacted so strongly that we continued to develop it. And then we slowly rolled out our first season in 2005, but we got noticed very quickly. Six months later, I left my job. Two years later, we launched another show in the West Village.
Does the story come first, or the locations?
Good question. It’s a little bit of both. It really happens for us organically where we have an idea for a story we’d like to tell and have a location, or city, we want to use. At that point, we try to find interesting locations that people from the city are not necessarily going to be familiar with. We strive to showcase iconic spots, from a different perspective, in addition to out-of-the-way spots that you never would have known existed.
It’s such a brilliant way to explore a city. You’ve just opened a show in L.A. Which city are you going to take on next?
We’re in the process of developing a third show in New York, with the Museum of Natural History– a show that takes place entirely inside the museum. And we‘ve been talking with a producer in London who has produced a lot of really successful out-of-the-box theater in London and thought it was a good fit. So I think that’s what we’re going to pursue for now. And then maybe Las Vegas.
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