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Zeit Bites

Three questions

Troy heard, director, Jonestown

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Jonestown by Table 8 Productions — about the doomed Peoples Temple and its charismatic leader, James Jones — is an unusual production in several ways. Including the staging: Rather than in a typical theater, audiences will see it in an undisclosed location. What’s up, we wondered.

Why did you come up with this method of staging, and what does it add to the play?

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The play dictated the staging, in this case. There was no “play” to begin with — just the vague idea to revisit the Jonestown tragedy and explore the causes. All the transcripts and tapes of the Peoples Temple have been collated online, including the recording of the final day, so the source material provided the script. There was a natural, morbid curiosity in exploring this event and making an immersive scenario where the audience would become the congregation. But as Scott McAdam, who portrays Jones, and I started weeding through all of this text, a different story emerged. Jones wasn’t a whack-job Christian fanatic — he used the pulpit to further his socialist leanings. So to get the full story, the audience follows the Temple from San Francisco to the final day in Guyana.


What were you looking for in a remote site?

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Part of the psychological factor was seclusion. Initially, we looked for locations outside of Boulder City. The idea was great — let’s drive 45 minutes to the middle of nowhere to tell this story about one of the largest mass suicides in the history of American civilization. Logistically, we planned to bus the guests from Henderson, but an aesthetic challenge arose: How do you keep the guests engaged during that long departure and the return? We didn’t have the resources to build a proper pre-show, so we’ve scrapped that in favor of a location within the city limits that’ll be revealed with purchase of a ticket.


What challenges does this present?

When performing outdoors, you’re competing with ambient noise and other natural distractions. Aside from that, the material is so naturally compelling. We’ve taken two sermons — one from San Francisco, and the final one in Jonestown — and have intercut it with testimonials, depositions and FBI reports that fill out the story. Oct. 23-Nov. 8, $30, location TBA,