The Cayuga Museum of History & Art commonly takes its visitors back in time. An event this Friday, however, will do so a little more actively.
The museum will host two performances of "Marie and the Nutcracker Prince," an interactive theater event presented by Breadcrumbs Productions, of Syracuse.
Tanner Efinger, the company's artistic director and founder, said Wednesday that the show transforms its host spaces into 1917 revolutionary Russia.
Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and not Tchaikovsky's ballet, the production features four characters: Drosselmeyer (Tallon Larham), Marie (Maya Dwyer, the show's director), the young revolutionary who becomes the nutcracker (Efinger, the show's producer) and an ambassador character (Andrew Hughes, the show's designer).
Efinger said the ambassador is there to guide the audience through the show experience. When they arrive, they'll be encouraged to explore the rooms of the Cayuga Museum mansion and the characters occupying them. Then, an event will occur that brings the characters and the audience together into one room, beginning the show. The characters will later scatter once more, at which point the audience must decide which ones to follow. For that reason, Efinger said, no one who sees "Marie and the Nutcracker Prince" actually sees the entire show.
"I'm just really fascinated by the concept of audience choice," he said. "If they have to make a choice, they engage more in what they've chosen."
Though the show changes based on the audience's response to it and features improvisation, Efinger said it also boasts stage combat, music and choreography. Breadcrumbs produces it with sound and lighting systems, as well as props and smaller set pieces, but the company also relies on the visual character of the venue to define the experience, he said.
That won't be a problem with the Cayuga Museum: Breadcrumbs performed a different piece there in February, Efinger said, and architectural features like its grand staircase will certainly define Friday's production. The show also ties into the museum's current exhibit, "1918: A Century Ago," by taking place a year prior.
Shows like Friday's are the reason Efinger formed Breadcrumbs after moving to Syracuse a year and a half ago. The company consists of a core of about half a dozen artists and a network of another couple dozen. "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" is its fourth production, Efinger said, and has previously been performed in Syracuse and Oneida.
Along with performing such nontraditional shows, the company also advocates for keeping local arts sustainable and "changing the narrative" of what it means to work in theater, Efinger said.
"Our long-term goal is to turn central New York into a region that attracts artists because of the depth of opportunity," he said.