Back to the Ouija Board

Brianna Riplinger

I can easily say that I’ve never been to a play like Galumph Interactive Theater’s Seance. I have, however been in theater classes that were quite similar. You see, Seance is what they call an “interactive play,” and in this particular case, there are only three “real” actors and the rest of the audience participates as main characters in the show. Unfortunately for us, only six audience members decided to show up on Sunday night. The maximum number of guests is 12, so when only half of the group attends, the result can be severely detrimental to this period-piece-without-a-real-point-production.

We are the guests at a seance set in the 1883 home of a prim, wide-eyed Cynthia Lexington (played by Jennifer Weaverling). The setting feels elegant and authentic – the whole play takes place in the main room of the Hennepin History Museum, filled with a giant fireplace and hundred-year old books. We get to be our 21st Century selves for almost an hour as the parlor maid, Prudence, eases us into the concept of acting: “Try thinking about how your character might say, ‘Hello.’ ” She also gives some historical context regarding the Spiritualism craze of the late 1800s. With our chosen characters and our period costumes consisting of vests, shawls and gloves mismatched with our street clothes, we are ushered into the parlor as Miss Lexington greets us all individually, spilling secrets and dropping hints that would later provide fuel for laughs and gasps during the actual seance.

The seance, in which we contact dead people of significance to our characters, begins after more introductions to our fellow guests. Here we get a good sense of who will be entertaining among the audience members. The most daring of us all is a balding man in his 40s that plays Reverend Collins. He keeps the laughs coming by constantly pouring the sherry (apple cider) into his glass, downing it, and acting quite soused for most of the evening. In one “supernatural” instance, the Reverend Collins contacts his friend, another reverend that had died recently. With the help of the other “real” actor, a visiting medium named Edward Parks Brooks (played by Chris Griffith), holds his shoulders and guides Collins into a vision of his old friend on a breezy, sunny day.

“He’s coming towards you, now Reverend Collins. What is he wearing?” Mr. Brooks asks. “He’s not,” the Reverend quickly retorts. Everyone in the room laughs wildly for a bit, including the paid actors. Then, seeming to milk it, Mr. Brooks asks, “He’s holding an object in his hand. What is it?” to which we all laugh even more uncontrollably.

Although there many moments throughout the evening were filled with awkward silences, stifled giggles and sweaty anxiety, I maintained a smile on my face for almost all of the two and a half hour performance. The premise leaves many scenes almost completely up to the novice actors, and that can, expectedly, make for some uncomfortable stretches of time. The moments of relief and hilarity were usually spurred by an amusing line by one of the guests, but sometimes came from an excruciating silence where things weren’t going too smoothly. Seance is clearly an experience that relies, perhaps too heavily, on the level of wit and confidence of its audience members.

Seance plays through Nov. 3 at the Hennepin History Museum, (612) 870-1329.