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Photo by Nicholas Caputo

Control Group Productions Launches In-Car, Immersive Theater Tour

The upcoming tour, CAVALCADE!, will take viewers on a dance- and theatrics-filled parade through Denver—all from the safety of your own car.

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Tired of watching your favorite artists and performers through a screen yet? Denver-based Control Group Productions has you covered with a new excuse to get out of the house and engage with the arts (and don’t worry—it’s still safe!).

The immersive theater group announced the launch of their upcoming tour, CAVALCADE!, a caravan-style, theatrical dance extravaganza to enjoy safely from inside your car. With a new debut slated for June 11—the original opening date of June 5 pushed back in response to the continued protests over the death of George Floyd—the limited 16-show run will begin each night at sunset. Audiences will be brought along for a 9-mile, parade-like trek through the city featuring several vignette-style stops, as well as plenty of what Control Group’s artistic director Patrick Mueller calls “car choreography.”

“It’ll be Macy’s Day, filtered through performance art,” Mueller says. Associate director Nicholas Caputo has curated a sound score and “spoofy radio show” for audience members to tune into on a FM radio station, and keeping tune with Control Group’s m.o. for intimate performances, each CAVALCADE! showing will only accommodate up to eight cars at a time. As for the route, that’s part of the surprise factor. “We’re really sort of hijacking the parade idea of taking it to places that there would never be a parade in Denver,” Mueller says, teasing that they will also visit familiar Denver landmarks, but take viewers’ understanding of those spaces and “turn them on their heads.”

Control Group has carved out a niche for itself with nontraditional theater experiences, and while the concept of mobile audience events is nothing new to the local troupe (or other production groups around the country), Mueller says CAVALCADE! was heavily inspired by the Radius of Transmission project that they helped produce last summer with Boulder artist Ondine Geary—a multidisciplinary exploration of grief with a similar site-specific and radio-based format. The in-car format also seemed like the closest they could get to an adaptation of the tour they originally had planned for the summer—an immersive bus tour delving into topics like displacement and apocalypse, which was canceled in late March “due to defictionalization of contents.”

“We really want to have some conversation about where we as a society and our planet and our species could be headed,” Mueller says about the previously canceled tour. “But I don’t think that June would be a time that people would want to get onto a school bus together and talk about a different apocalypse.”

Instead, the crew is opting to create more of a window for escapism with CAVALCADE! “We are very much in the middle of a thing,” Caputo says. “And that’s kind of a rare opportunity as people who are creating art, to have an audience that’s coming from a similar—I don’t want to say the exact same situation—but we’re all being affected by what’s going on.” And while the group is pretty tight-lipped about any thematics, they all agree they don’t want to lean too far into the universal woes of the pandemic. “I feel like…we can still find some small specks of joy,” associate director Bailey Harper chimes in, hinting that they’re going for weird and whimsical at every stop. “Even amongst this [pandemic], there are some smaller things that can just sort of bring that sense of happiness.”

Mueller emphasizes that the show is family friendly, and will be enjoyable for kiddos of any age. “It is appropriate for any kid who can sit in the car for 80 minutes,” he laughs. And while the group has worked to make the show as interactive and “contagion-proof” as possible, there will be at least one opportunity where parade-goers will be invited to step out of the car for a properly distanced moment of connection with the art. Just be sure to don some closed-toed shoes if you care to join—and a face mask, of course.

June 5–28; $40–$100 per car; Find more information on showings and tickets on Control Group’s website

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