No sector of the entertainment industry may have been hit harder than live theater during the pandemic.
While most have relied on streaming performances, the Geffen Playhouse has rolled out a series of sold-out interactive shows, including its summer Zoom hit, The Present. Extended three times, it starred illusionist Helder Guimarães and was directed by renowned producer Frank Marshall.
Now, its sequel, The Future — which runs Dec. 4 to Jan. 31 — already is selling out many showings at $95 a ticket. Guimarães performs from his Glendale apartment, while Marshall returns, directing remotely from his Brentwood home. (The Geffen also has two other live interactive shows running simultaneously: Inside the Box, starring magician/puzzler David Kwong, and Citizen Detective, a virtual murder mystery.)
“We’re a humming machine. We went through this once already, where we just scrambled and we didn’t know what we were doing. We learned a lot about how Zoom works,” Marshall says of his evolving experience with Guimarães. “The great thing about The Future is the support of the Geffen. We wouldn’t be doing the show without them.”
Before performances, a box is delivered to the ticket buyers’ house, to be opened at showtime. Inside are props to be used when cued by Guimarães in this story, drawn from his experiences exploring the seedier side of card sharps.
“We’re able to expand the show to more people. It’s more demanding this time because we have more people watching the show,” adds Marshall, who first collaborated with Guimarães at the Geffen in 2019 on the show Invisible Tango. While The Present had a Zoom audience of 25, The Future can accommodate 50 for each show.
“The magic is folded into his story, and that’s what I love about working with him. He’s not just doing magic. There are dramatic beats and moments and blocking in the story,” continues Marshall, whose other projects include the documentary The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (premiering Dec. 12 on HBO); 2022’s Jurassic World: Dominion; and a new Indiana Jones film to be directed by James Mangold that’s aiming to shoot next summer. Marshall is also preparing to co-direct, with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, a doc on fellow Olympian Picabo Street for the Olympic Channel.
A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.