From January 13 – 31, the world came to Palm Springs! As if by magic, the award-winning Dezart Performs (www.dezartperforms.org) extended its reach around the globe with its critically acclaimed virtual online interactive production of Vinny Ponto’s Mental Amusements. Delighted audience members tuned in and took part in real time from as far away as Australia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada. In the US, cross country viewers watched from New York to Seattle, as well as many locally here in the Coachella Valley. Designed exclusively for the virtual stage as an interactive live-streamed event, Mental Amusements used a combination of psychological tricks, illusion, visual art, and immersive storytelling that astonished viewers with DePonto’s mind-boggling skills.
“The wonderfully clever and personal engagement between Front Row patrons and Vinny was the closest thing to live theatre we’ve experienced in a long time. Until we can get back to in-person performances, this fit the bill,” said Dezart Performs Founding Artistic Director Michael Shaw noting that over 500 people tuned in for the unique and first-of-its-kind effort for the award winning ensemble. “The performer, Vinny DePonto, was in New York, the stage manager was in Atlanta, and tech support was in Palm Springs. So popular was the production that the show was extended. While we’re hopeful and anxious to soon get back to live, in person performances, this virtual experience was truly eye-opening. We’ve seen the present, and part of it’s on our screens and directly in our homes.”
“Last night, I saw the future of theater—the immediate future, at least—and it is bright and beautiful,” said V.J. Hume of The Coachella Valley Independent. “Just like other unforeseen advances that have resulted from this pandemic, theatrical technology has been hard at work behind the scenes. The result? We can now stay home in comfort and watch a liveproduction from New York! The show transformed us all into wonderstruck children, as he pulled out surprise after surprise, making us laugh and clap our hands and shake our heads in amazement. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I felt like that.”
So, what’s next?
“COVID has certainly forced us to be creative and nimble,” said Shaw, who is already looking at options for another hybrid show to entertain Dezart Perform’s loyal, and now international, fan base. “As we said at the beginning of the pandemic, we’re still here and dreaming. Now, some of our dreams are showing us the way to new audiences and new ways of presenting theatre.”
Audience Reactions to Vinny DePonto’s Mental Amusements:
“Fun, inclusive, intriguing…still cannot figure it out. HOW DOES HE DO IT!?” –Tammy H.
“We loved it! Minds truly blown!” –Rachel and Dave
“The ‘grand finale’ was amazing!” –Barbara
“Crazy Incredible! Congratulations on an outstanding show! Vinny DePonto is absolutely spec-freakin-tacular!!!!” –Chet and Pamela
“Seriously – this was one of the most enjoyable things our family has done in all of quarantine! You will be SHOCKED and AMAZED! You will not be sorry!”
–Annie and Matt
“It was a wonderful show! Bill and I really enjoyed it and it was well worth the cost of admission.” –Joni
“Vinny was TRULY amazing and I haven’t stopped thinking about the show!!”
“Mental Amusements and its star, Vinny DePonto, provided a much-needed dose of wonder and joy.” –Vivian
Dezart Performs, one of the Coachella Valley’s preeminent theatre companies, recognizes that the performing arts enrich the life and culture of a community, promote greater understanding and provoke insightful discussion. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit theatre company, its mission is to provide an artistic home for bold and cutting–edge plays, creating an atmosphere of artistic growth for actors, writers, and directors who uniquely contribute to the diverse theatrical environment in the Coachella Valley.