One-woman show could possibly save the world

Mission: Implausible! incorporates social media engagement in a "collaborative" one-woman show.  Publicity Image Mission: Implausible! incorporates social media engagement in a “collaborative” one-woman show. Publicity Image

If you’re reading this on your smartphone, and you’ve got Facebook, Twitter, and an appreciation for live comedy and action/adventure, you’re needed at the Helms Theater. There’s a world that needs to be saved, and only you can save it.

In her one-woman show, Mission: Implausible!, veteran actor, director, writer, and UVA MFA student Sandi Carroll pulls back the curtain on audience/actor delineation, inviting viewers to get in on the action by sending Facebook and Twitter comments and photos about the show before, after, and during performances. One lucky viewer will be invited on stage to ad-lib the role of Top Secret Agent Karen’s partner.

“The basis of my theater is physical comedy, and we never have a fourth wall,” said Carroll, whose film acting credits include The Adjustment Bureau and Rabbit Hole along with stage performances in the Broadway play Irena’s Vow and her own shows, including Faux: An Auto-Spy-Ography, which is based on her experiences as an undercover private investigator in Chinatown.  “Using interactive technology just seemed like a perfect fit. “

What’s more, she said, artists in the digital era need to be savvy business people as well as creative, and her experience, as both a student who aims to teach at the graduate level and occasional teacher for NYC, Emerson, Brown, and elsewhere, revealed an absence of modes for actors to integrate marketing into their work.

“In production, you’re making theater and making theater, and a few weeks before you open you suddenly realize you haven’t done any marketing,” she said. “I know great artists who have no careers because they’re terrible business people. So I wanted to think about how to market this show in a way that wasn’t marketing in disguise but really building a community.”

Engaging audience members from the outset generates online conversation around performances of the show itself, but Carroll hopes her concept—which turns on the idea that “people could save the world every day in their own little ways, through small acts of kindness”—inspires positive action long after the theater doors close.

“I want my Facebook page to be a place that somebody could end up and say, ‘Oh, this is interesting,’ and engage with the conversation. Even if they don’t see the show, they’ve had a meaningful interaction with the community.”

Carroll, who moved to Charlottesville from New York, had positive experiences interviewing people on the sidewalk while in character as Karen, and has already seen the collective effort gathering around her work. “When I was looking for funding, a group called Pando Creative offered an artistic barter,” she said. “They’re going to shoot the show and create a video so I can continue to promote it, and I’m going to act in their short film. Just the fact that they suggested that reinforced my sense that, though I set out to create this show so I could have more artistic autonomy, it has been one of the most collaborative experiences of my life. It takes a village to save the world and takes a village to make a play.”

Mission: Implausible! plays at 8pm on March 22, 25, and 27 at the Helms Theater in the UVA Drama Building, 109 Culbreth Road. Admission is free.  Engage the action at