To cash a thief: Diamond-heist play has roles for high-rollers

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It’s pay to play!

A new theater piece about a diamond heist will recruit audience members to portray museum guards or thieves-in-training, or honored guests. “Untameable,” opening on Nov. 6 at Williamsburg’s St. Paul’s Hall, lets audience members choose their role in the show — for a price.

“We have this slightly tiered experience going on, where depending on your ticket, you might be asked to do certain things or it determines where you can go,” says Daria Miyeko-Marinelli, the show’s writer and producer.

Those who buy the cheapest tickets, at 99 cents, become attendants in the play, carrying small props and standing in particular spots as directed. In contrast, those with $99 “heir to the throne” tickets receive a free-roaming experience, with attention from a central character, food, and drinks.

The different tiers help to foster a connection between the audience and the play, says the show’s director.

“Essentially we wanted to build more of a relationship with, and an investment between, the audience of the play,” said Elana McKelahan.

The plot, about a master thief plotting to steal a precious diamond, unfolds in two rooms simultaneously — the outlaw’s hideout and the museum where the jewel is on display, with characters occasionally crossing from one to the other. Audience members with $15 “Security Guard” tickets generally stay in the museum room, but other audience members can choose which story to experience.

“What was neat is that the audience gets some choice during the show, you could fully follow one side of the story — the thieves or the security guards — or sort of settle on a favorite character and follow them through the production,” said McKelahan.

The dual structure allows each audience member to have a unique experience, and to see the show more than once, said the playwright.

“It was definitely a challenge, it’s like I had to write two really solid plays,” said Miyeko-Marinelli. “There was a pressure to make sure that both sides are compelling.”

The show’s creators say that creating immersive theater a way to distinguish live performance from television or film. If stage theater does not push at what can be done live, the medium is doomed, says Miyeko-Marinelli.

“I think if theater is going to stay relevant it needs to re-examine how it presents itself,” said Miyeko-Marinelli. “Having it immersive, having it happen all around you, the audience is actually invested in what they’re seeing. It gives the audience agency and makes it unique to a live performance.”

Untameable at St. Paul’s [334 S. Fifth St. at Rodney Street in Williamsburg,] Nov. 4–22, Wed–Sun at 8 pm, and Saturday matinees at 2 pm. $0.99–$99.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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