The 100-member cast of “A Glimpse Beyond: A Unique Celebration of Life and Death” leaves no one out: dancers, musicians, poets, puppeteers, sopranos, jazz singers, gospel choirs, and actors — some garbed as masked “spirit owls,” others portraying the recently departed — join to make audiences ponder what lies ahead in the great beyond.
But all of them might very well be upstaged by the stage itself. “Glimpse” is being performed on the grounds of an actual cemetery, and not only that, it’s Mount Auburn Cemetery, one of the most historic and idyllic final resting places in the country.
Show time is 4 p.m. Saturday, with audience members literally following the narrative as it unfolds across the various graves, groves, and lush contours of America’s first garden cemetery. There will be surprises, such as actors poking out from behind trees, but the show steers clear of Halloween themes, with performers, in their respective disciplines, presenting personal and uplifting takes on the afterlife.
Mount Auburn, in its 181-year history, has never hosted a dramatic performance like it, organizers say.
“It’s certainly out of the box for us, to put it bluntly,” says Bree Harvey, the cemetery’s vice president of external affairs.
‘It’s certainly out of the box for us, to put it bluntly.’
At the same time, “Glimpse” reflects the the very notions Mount Auburn was founded upon, she says.
“It is a place of peace and tranquillity, a place to commemorate the dead and console the bereaved and celebrate the lives of those buried here. The [show’s organizers] wanted to use music and dance and theater to help promote that same idea.”
“Glimpse” is modeled after a similar production held at Green-Wood Cemeteryin Brooklyn, N.Y., called “Angels and Accordions,” which had a popular seven-year run. It’s also very much in synch with Mount Auburn’s new bent toward artistic programming. In recent years the cemetery has begun hosting musical concerts, live owl presentations, and even a coffee house/poetry slam-type event in an effort to draw younger visitors.
Those activities, however, have been held indoors. “Glimpse” will use the cemetery and actual graves as its tableau, requiring additional measures to respect the dead. Performers will not be allowed to touch gravestones; no actual funerals will be held in the cemetery during the performance; and, to minimize wear on paths and plots, the audience will be capped at 100.
With children as young as age 8 in the cast, the performance isn’t intended to scare audiences. But rather, like the cemetery itself, to enlighten them.
“We want people to walk through this beautiful area, and when they’re finished, be on a whole other level,” says artistic director Eric Bornstein. “This is all about the joyful journey of the soul. It’s all about light and spirit, in the most positive way.”
Tickets are $20 and must be purchased in advance through the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery, 617-607-1980 or online at mountauburn.org. Due to serious themes “Glimpse” is not recommended for children under 10.