Culture in quarantine: Prague theatre invites you to check in to the interactive Zoo Motel

Motel guests, who are provided with printable room keys and evacuation maps, do more than just watch.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 18.01.2021 13:56 (updated on 18.01.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

For people who miss going to the theater, there are some virtual presentations online. Local Prague venue Alfred ve dvoře is promoting Zoo Motel, an online production that has three presentations left until the end of January.

The interactive and immersive theatrical event is the work of creator and performer Thaddeus Phillips, in collaboration with the designer and artist Steven Dufala. He invites people to enter the mysterious Zoo Motel. The event is performed in English.

The play is broadcast live and online from a small room in a village in South America. The presentations on Jan. 21–23 are timed to be convenient for Europe. In the Czech Republic, they will take place at 8 p.m. CET. Tickets can be booked on the Goout network via a link on the Alfred ve dvoře website.

Even though it is online, each performance is limited to only 21 audience participants nightly, who check into virtual rooms. Spectators, who take on the role of motel guests, will receive printable room keys and motel evacuation maps, just in case. They also need to provide their own deck of regular playing cards.

Phillips and Dufala have transformed Phillips’ studio into a magical motel room where time stops, mysterious stories emerge from across the globe, and analog objects take on their own meaning. The production also uses interactive magic tricks and illusions created by New York magician Steve Cuiffo.

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The evening is described as “adventurous theater about lost souls of the past, our global new reality and the possibilities for the future.”

Thaddeus Phillips in Zoo Motel. (
Thaddeus Phillips in Zoo Motel. (photo: zoomotel.org)

The presentation has received positive reviews. “It draws us into a dreamlike world of upended perspectives and visual magic. By the time Phillips plays a clip from The Wizard of Oz, we are losing our grip on the line between reality and fantasy. This room is both a place and a dream,” Mark Fisher said in a review in UK daily The Guardian, adding that the play helps people to again feel connected.

Scottish newspaper The National called it “a stunning advert for digital drama.” Critic Mark Brown has been critical of many online dramas for falling flat, thought a few like this one have broken out.

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“It was inevitable that the coronavirus catastrophe would lead to some productions of similarly ingenious online drama. Zoo Motel, which is streamed live from the Colombian studio of American theatre master Thaddeus Phillips, is such a show,” The National’s Brown said.

“Phillips’s piece provides abundant evidence that the internet is entirely amenable to the skills of resourceful theatre-makers,” he added.

Colorado native Phillips directs theater in Europe, tours with his own work globally, and acts . He has appeared in the TV series ¨Narcos¨ and “El Capo,” and in the film The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary artist Dufala works primarily in collaboration with his brother Billy as the Dufala Brothers. They teach sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and their work is in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and many private collections.

Magician Cuiffo is one of the leading sleight of hand artists in New York City. He has worked with magician David Blaine and played Lenny Bruce onstage, among other credits.  

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