Vincent Carbone is the writer and director of Awakening In Ink, a new, audience-immersive play set to debut October 15th at Morris-Jumel Mansion. Set in Morris-Jumel, and inspired by the Mansion's alleged paranormal past, Awakening In Ink tells the tale of Lauren Wilmat, newly hired caretaker of MJM, and her unnerving encounters with the ghosts haunting the halls of MJM. Curious to learn more, MJM sat down with Mr. Carbone and posed a few questions. On one point—where to buy tickets—we're already in the know: visit awakeninginink.brownpapertickets.com.
MJM: Your play, Awakening in Ink, is site-specific—that is, it's set in the Mansion and uses the space to dramatic effect. Was MJM and its history a source of creative inspiration?
Vincent Carbone: The mansion and it's incredible political and social history are certainly an inspiration. In an attempt to capture the interests of various communities, It was my intent to create a plot utilizing the various time periods in which both historic and supposedly paranormal events have taken place at the mansion as the connective tissue.
MJM: Writing the play, you made use of Morris-Jumel's archives...
VC: Upon my initial research into the paranormal history of the building, I was presented with a stack of letters and newspapers clippings pertaining to the topic dating as far back as the 1960's. It was while reading them that I began to see a common thread of names and reported events, thus leading to a plot. Combined with my existing knowledge of verbatim theatre in which a script is derived from preexisting, factual interviews or documents, AWAKENING IN INK was conceived.
MJM: Awakening In Ink is "audience immersive." Viewers don't simply sit still. How exactly are they involved?
VC: After receiving some preliminary instructions upon their arrival to the mansion, the audience will find themselves following the protagonist through out the house in order to piece together the evidence revealed in the script.
MJM: In your considered opinion, does Eliza haunt the Mansion's halls?
VC: To quote an excerpt from the play, "Mrs. Susan Lamen, a (former) member of the board of directors of the Washington Headquarters Association which oversees the Museum, pooh-poohs the ghost stories. But she does admit, however reluctantly, “If ghosts were coming back, Betsy Jumel’s would certainly be the one to return.”
In the paranormal investigative community, there are two types of considered hauntings; residual and intelligent. Residual hauntings present themselves much like a scene from a DVD stuck on loop, retracing a specific event from its life over and over, often witnessed around the same time of day or set of circumstances.
An intelligent haunting is an entity that may often try to communicate with the living but may not necessarily be aware of the fact that they are deceased.
Based off of my personal experiences here at the mansion, it is my opinion that some, highly intelligent vestige of Eliza still remains.
MJM: Along with a love of theater, you have a stated interest in the paranormal. Have you ever gone ghost hunting?
VC: In addition to my experience as an actor, director, and even a first responder being an EMT, I have also had the pleasure of exploring history through many paranormal investigations. In addition to several nocturnal visits the Morris-Jumel Mansion, I have also investigated another historical home upstate in Victor, NY as well as the home of a close friend.
MJM: Awakening in Ink isn't your first written play. What other work have you done?
VC: In addition to Awakening In Ink, I have also written and directed several other pieces including my undergraduate thesis, Fancy Me Mad examining the life and lore of Edgar Allan Poe. As a performer, some of my favorite roles to date include Curly in Of Mice and Men, Erronius in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Benjamin in The Graduate in addition to improv, stand up and sketch comedy. Some of my comedic material can be seen at funnyordie.com.