Immerse yourself in a brothel, a theater, a house of illusions… 
discover who you are in who we are

International Culture Lab (ICL) and Coney Island USA (CIUSA) have formed an ensemble of dancers, performance artists, actors, musicians, and visual artists who are devising an original evening of theater and art.

Our project is inspired by Jean Genet’s classic play, The Balcony. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, Genet’s work explores themes of power, patriarchy, identity, and illusion. It posits that theater is the prime metaphor for our politics, for the masks we wear in society, and for the very nature of our human condition. 

In the play, sex-workers in a brothel – what Madame Irma calls her “House of Illusions” – satisfy client fantasies. In our production, art-workers probe their own fantasies to create an immersive theater experience throughout the expansive Coney Island USA facility: the Sideshow Stage, the Freak Bar, the Museum, and the Annex, including the interior and exterior passageways between these sites.

Beyond the mainstage performances, drawn directly from the story of the play, the ensemble is fabricating performance/art installations in “brothel rooms.”  Each performer has devised a persona and a scenario that creatively explores their shadow self. Audiences are invited to wander and experience the fantasies of Madame Irma’s working girls. 

These personas have also created art — both objects and services — that they offer for purchase to individual theatergoers via a menu.

Artist as the escort into the art $$$ brothel. Theatergoer/art patron as the client, voyeur, and arbiter of value.

Ritual Cabaret Art Brothel takes Genet’s timeless work and interprets it for a contemporary audience that routinely traverses misinformation, challenges to stereotypes of gender and power, TV-star heads of state, crafted social media and dating app profiles… and the “arms race” in artificial intelligence to create the perfect mirror of human thought and behavior.

As Madame Irma instructs the audience on leaving her House of Illusions, “You must now go home, where everything – you can be quite sure – will be falser than here.”