Reboot: Live Theatre 2.0

Photo courtesy of Walking Shadow Theater
Photo courtesy of Walking Shadow Theater

Live theater is currently in a period of serious recalibration, and Walking Shadow Theatre has come up with one of my favorite approaches to safely providing an enjoyable theatrical experience. They’re currently running a fun, thoughtful production called Reboot—part escape room, part thought experiment, part live theater.

Reboot is structured like an escape room, which makes the completely digital experience much more engaging and intimate than other remote performances I’ve watched in the last year. This is not to dismiss recordings of theater—I averaged one a week for the first half of 2020—but only to encourage anyone who hasn’t enjoyed theater remotely to give Reboot a shot.

Agent Halo. Photo courtesy of Walking Shadow Theater

As the audience trickled into the Zoom room, our host, Agent Halo (played by Jamila Joiner), asked us to assign ourselves codenames “for security purposes,” verified our preferred pronouns, and then briefed us on the top secret mission we would soon begin. Joiner was delightful: embodying the quintessential video game instruction voice over for most of her role.

Working as a team, the audience cracked a code that granted us admission into a delightfully 80s-style office that served as the stage for the rest of the performance. We worked our way through several puzzles and, just as I was beginning to think that Reboot was more Puzzle Room than theater, we met GOL3M VIII. Played by Gregory Parks, GOL3M VIII presented the audience with a new kind of puzzle— rather than asking us to find codes or clues in digital materials, he instead asked the room a series of ethical questions. Park’s performance was very fun: reminiscent of Star Trek’s Data, he emanated warmth, curiosity and a charming, unselfconscious intellect. 

Photo courtesy of Walking Shadow Theater

Joiner and Parks both excel at what is inarguably a tough job—this kind of performance needs them to be ready to shift between improv and script at any moment, while holding an audience’s attention over the internet and being ready to provide tech support.

I don’t want to give too much away—the puzzles and the mystery are kind of the point in a piece like Reboot—but I will vouch that this is an experience filled with engaging puzzles (created by David Pisa) and a thought-provoking script (written by Derek “Duck” Washington) that will leave you thinking about things like the intersection between law and morality, artificial intelligence and free will. 

The show has been extended to run through mid-September, so get your tickets while you still can.

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