The history of Powel House runs as deep as our modern nation; it was a popular meeting place for important politicians in the early United States, and George Washington has stayed in it on multiple occasions. Brenna Geffers and The Philadelphia Opera Collective’s site-specific installation SHADOW HOUSE unravels the layers of emotion and humanity that this building, which has seen our country born and grow until today, contains. Powel House, a Georgian mansion with most of its original furniture and décor intact – or perhaps some are just replicas – makes for a lavish space to explore in this promenade opera. Audience members are assigned a starting point on the property, but are free to move about or stay put however you like once the performance begins. Because of the responsibility placed on the audience to navigate the piece for the best possible experience, one may need to see SHADOW HOUSE twice to glean a plot from all the movement, and the dark, dreamy score.
Geffers assembled a team of composers, one for each time period depicted in the piece. Sean Lally, who plays Charles, composed the pieces he performs on guitar. Christopher Colucci’s piece from the 1960s era, “Bicentennial,” is featured in a tense scene between two architects working on restoring the house. Peggy (Kristy Joe Slough), the wife of Benedict Arnold, mourns throughout the house as a ghost to Josh Hartman’s “Second Round.” And while promenade theatre and “build your own performance” installations such as SHADOW HOUSE can be disorienting in their eschewing of Aristotelian structure, the secret moments you can capture through luck can be the most rewarding. You might receive a shot of whiskey for being in the right place at the right time. Or stumble upon soprano Kirsten Kunkle performing Sarah Van Sciver’s “Attic Solo,” and finding yourself to be the sole witness of the aria.
[Powel House, 244 South 3rd Street] September 9 – 22, 2016, http://fringearts.com/event/shadow-house/