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Inspired by Spiritus / Virgil's Dance

by Jacob Basri, Rattlestick Directing Fellow

Lots of people who use words like “disruptor” have informed me that the theatre’s future is immersive, but if you’re like me and you fear the humiliation of a kind of splash zone interactive experience, this prediction feels less than reassuring. Yet, when I read Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance, I felt called to have an immersive experience, just not the kind that involves being dragged on stage. I wanted more of a self-directed immersion, so I began to imagine the ideal experiences that might surround my attending this play.


For me, this began with Dante. You certainly don’t need to read Dante’s “Divine Comedy” to engage with or enjoy Dael Orlandersmith’s Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance. However, if you are a true nerd (as I am) and you’ve read a play where a character named Virgil guides you on a journey of the soul, you might become curious about how they speak to each other. And I will admit that I am very moved by conversations through time. To my surprise, Dael’s play deeply informed what I paid attention to as I read Dante. Dael’s Virgil gives such an evocative description of New York that when I turned to “The Divine Comedy,” I could only picture Dante’s journey through the wilderness of hell as the discovery of a city with a vast range of communities and neighborhoods. And I realized how deeply I would appreciate a poet guiding me through all the cities I ever enter.


The reciprocal conversation between these two pieces that was happening in my head kept bringing me back to the theme of middle age. I grew up around a lot of therapists, and one of them once warned me that when you’re young, you are anxious about whether you will become something, but then at some point, you will have become, and then you will have to decide if what you have become suits you. Dael helped me read Dante as a story about the need for a second becoming. Of course, the threat of eternal damnation is excellent motivation for transformation, and I don’t believe in that, but Dael helps me reframe this damnation as suffering that can exist in this life right now. The antidote to this suffering seems to be purpose and connection, and seeking either requires a willingness to look unflinchingly at life’s blessings and its sorrows. And I can think of no better way to do that than in community with other people. Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance makes me want to immerse myself in the world and do things with people I care about. I feel tasked to grab friends and bring them to this theater to see this play and then afterward to go listen to live music or view art and ask each other soul-stirring unanswerable questions. If you think you might enjoy a similarly immersive experience, here are some places you might want to explore before or after you see the play: 

Locations and Experiences

Locations and Experiences:

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