The Dilettantes


Jack Lawrence Mayer, 2015


Immersive Theater

Heist is an interactive experience in which audience members pull off a classic, cinema-style robbery, developed and produced by the theater artists The Dilettantes. Employing game structures and techniques to place the audience at the center of the action, The Dilettantes will immerse you in all the hallmarks of a heist in a participatory, theatrical environment.

Inspiration for the project comes from the great heist movies of the past 50 years and the colorful history of bank robberies in the United States: the former football star who stole $400,000 from a bank with the help of craigslist and an inner tube; the a southern belle who spent decades robbing banks dressed as a bearded cowboy; even the two men who robbed banks without a trace for 30 years until one of them wanted to retire. These theatrical crimes are the rich source material for The Dilettantes’ gamified theatre.

During their Sponsorship at High Concept Labs, The Dilettantes will dive into the rapid pace, unreliable narration, and high stakes of the heist—translating a highly visual, cinematic genre into an interactive experience with a sense of danger. Balancing game design with theatrical narrative, they will develop an immersive environment and create a fully cohesive experience.

By making use of the rehearsal space available for workshops at HCL as well as the artist critiques, The Dilettantes will take Heist from a storyboarded concept with a loose script to a fully fleshed out interactive experience. Their time at HCL will finish with an Works-in-Progress showing, which will also serve as a key play-test for the game’s mechanics and overall experience.

Artist Bio

The Dilettantes by Jack Lawrence MayerThe Dilettantes are passionate about crafting distinctive, immersive experiences that contain both performance and participation. Their projects are narrative‐based, structurally experimental, or anywhere in between—but they are all linked by a steadfast belief in the value of live events and face‐to‐face interactions. Their work explores the nature of what is joyful, unexpected, and necessary about being in a room with other human beings.

Their work began in 2012 with two performance experiments: a game composed of middle school science experiments, and a curated bi-monthly conversation series that brought together groups of strangers to explore current and pressing issues in interactive ways. The science experiments began as an underground game in garages in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood and turned into Science Night, a live game that puts players on the cusp of scientific glory (or failure). The game’s multi-year development process, including a residency at Pivot Arts at Loyola University and sold out late-night pop up events, culminated in a full length run in the fall of 2015.

After successfully running the conversation series in coffee shops and restaurants across Chicago, The Dilettantes began collaborating with a wide variety of organizations, including Illinois Humanities, Chicago Public Library, Mishkan Chicago, and the Illinois Library Association, bringing their skills as live performers and facilitators to organizations that seek to engage audiences in unexpected ways. They currently collaborate with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Illinois Humanities as part of their OpenICE series, exploring ways to reinvent how audiences experience live, contemporary music.

As individual artists, the members of The Dilettantes identify as writers, directors, producers, marketers, and designers. Their past work in Chicago has included projects with Collaboraction Theater Company, About Face Theatre, Two Birds Casting, Strawdog, The New Colony, 500 Clown, Northlight Theatre, The Inconvenience, and Dog & Pony Theatre Co (where they worked as a team on a theatrical dining experience with Ada Street Restaurant). Their individual work has been developed or produced by Williamstown Theater Festival, New York International Fringe Festival, The Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3, The Orchard Project, and The Source Festival In Washington DC.

The Dilettantes are Erika Grammel, Rebecca Stevens, and Aaron Weissman.


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