Applied Mechanics makes plays that you can walk through, with immersive sets that you are invited to explore. Many stories unfold simultaneously and each audience member is free to choose how to watch them. Whether you rummage through a character’s suitcase, eavesdrop on a conversation, or read the writing on the wall, no two people see the same show. We build alternative worlds, in intricate full-surround detail, and invite you into them. Our process is highly collaborative and based on a commitment to organizational and artistic innovation. We are inspired by dioramas, theme parties, choose-your-own adventure books, zines, feminism, collectivity, and social justice movements.
Applied Mechanics is a collaborative ensemble that has been making original, immersive theater since 2009. Founded by director Rebecca Wright and designer Maria Shaplin, the company’s inaugural show put a fishing village in a West Philly apartment on Valentine’s Day and invited audience members to explore the town as the myth of the Selkie unfolded around them, complete with a saw-playing seal. Since then, Applied Mechanics has become a standing ensemble of five artists and created nine original works. Their adventures have included touring from Texas to Maine with their invasion play Portmanteau, rocking out as their all-girl band the Cherry Jones Administration, condensing the Napoleonic Empire into an hour-long movement opera with 26 actors, conducting a workshop on immersive storytelling at Microsoft, and winning a cult following with their revolutionary feminist punk play We Are Bandits. They host bi-annual Community Dinners — free home-cooked meals that anyone is welcome to attend — and have thrown six excellent immersive theme parties, including a Science Fair at the Chemical Heritage Foundation and an adolescence-themed Awkward Ball. They have garnered grants from the Wyncote Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the Fels Foundation, Network of Ensemble Theaters, and the Charlotte Cushman Foundation, among others. They have been featured in American Theater Magazine and presented by the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts and the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. Applied Mechanics is Rebecca Wright, Maria Shaplin, Jessica Hurley, Thomas Choinacky, and Mary Tuomanen. They are based in Philadelphia. They share a home-cooked meal at every rehearsal.
Applied Mechanics creates intricate, immersive worlds and invites our audience in to watch all the stories that unfold there. Our work embraces narrative multiplicity. It engages all the senses. It asks performers and audience to share space, and gives audience members agency and freedom of movement. Our art is an exercise in empathy and transformation. We believe that art can be a powerful force in the struggle against nationalism, fascism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and bigotry. The art we make is part of that fight.
Applied mechanics is a branch of the physical sciences and the practical application of mechanics. Applied mechanics examines the response of bodies or systems of bodies to external forces. Some examples of mechanical systems include the flow of a liquid under pressure, the fracture of a solid from an applied force, or the vibration of an ear in response to sound.