‘Astor and Grey’ Comes to Montclair

'Astor and Grey' allows participants to embark on a journey through local coffee shops and meet with strangers for an interesting story.

Astor and Grey brings new meaning to performances.

Students Taking Acting Class At Drama College
© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Information has been confirmed about a new performance called  Astor and Grey , which is coming to multiple locations across Montclair, and residents are encouraged to get involved!

Astor and Grey is an interactive performance about a someone who is inconspicuously seated inside a coffee shop who will take you on a private journey about a missing brother and the establishment of a century old antique shop, all done while seated. The full arch of the story takes seven minutes to complete, with the opportunity to engage with other characters throughout town.

“Our theater company pushes the boundaries of conventional theater by granting permission to the audience members to self-direct their own experience,” said Victor Carinha, co-founder and artistic director of the collective.

According to Carinha, the focus of this work, as well as other works they produce, is centered around the audience. The experience is equally important, as the the participant may run into one of three different characters at a cafe in Montclair. One character resides in each coffee house and provides one piece to a larger puzzle that invites the participant to engage in a journey culminating to the grand-reopening of an antique shop where stories are for sale, but not the items.

“The backstory that unfolds revolves around the story of two brothers: Astor and Grey, who opened an antique shop,” said Carinha. “For several years prior to its establishment, the brothers made a pact to travel the world, in opposite directions, to purvey artifacts for their shop. Astor, the younger brother, was about enrichment… However Grey, the eldest brother, was about riches. Upon their return, Josephine (Astor’s finance, to be betrothed upon his return) is unimpressed by Astor’s relics and commits transgression with Grey in order to secure riches… Astor vanishes shortly after finding out; the participant finds Josephine during her pursuit of his whereabouts.”
For the interactive performance, there are three possible characters to interact with, one character per cafe. Grey, the co-owner, is also pursuing Astor’s whereabouts, but for different reasons. There is Samuel, the mute shopkeep. “Each character has a satisfying narrative, but there is an invitation to approach other characters and a reward if you do reach all three,” said Carinha.
Participation in this performance is free, and open to the public. They purchase a drink from the cafe and sit with our actor for the duration of the narrative.
According to Carinha, this piece is non-invasive for daily operations of the hosting business and remains true to the theme of the work: that the meeting is private. From one character’s perspective, the participant places provided noise-canceling headphones where the actress speaks to the participant but is unheard by passersby.
“The most exciting part of this work is that we are utilizing multiple mediums by a group of award winning artists to create a compelling piece,” said Carinha. “While one interaction may occur less than a foot from face to face, another occurs from one end of the cafe to the other through a phone call; however, we cater specifically to the logistics of the business requirements and space.”
The group has partnered with over a dozen coffee shops and tea houses in Montclair to present this work as an engagement to the community. According to Carinha, they are likely opening Jan. 11 through Jan. 21 at the Starbucks on Bloomfield Avenue, and South Park Street, Terra at the Isabel Rose Cafe, Asana Tea House, Le PetitParisian, Trend Coffee and Tea House and Cafe Diem.

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