In view of COVID, the Arcanists cancel ‘Tarot VI’ and choose to close

The company's signature production, 'The Tarot Reading,' was an interactive and unscripted variety show that empowered artists to tell their own stories.

The Arcanists, the DC-based theater company co-founded by Alan Katz and Quill Nebeker in 2016, announced via their Facebook page and website that they would be shutting down operations at the end of this fiscal year (August 2022). In addition, the production of Tarot Reading VI, originally scheduled to run at Arlington, Virginia’s Theatre on the Run from July 29 to August 24, 2022, is canceled due to COVID uncertainties.

The company’s signature production, The Tarot Reading, was an interactive variety show in which seven eclectic artists called Mediums performed 21 unique acts called Revelations. Each act was performed for and with one adventurous and consenting audience member, called the Seeker. Each act was completely unique and totally unscripted, “and more than a little bit magical.”

Alan Katz and Quill Nebeker, from ‘The Tarot Reading III.’ Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

When asked by DC Theater Arts in 2019 what prompted The Tarot Reading series, Co-founder Quill Nebeker answered:

We wanted to make a place that audiences could and would want to come back to over and over again. We also wanted to make an institution, of a kind, that shined a light on the incredibly creative people in DC.

And Co-founder Alan Katz said:

DC needs a place that can empower artists to tell their own stories with their amazing, variegated skill sets. So much of the regional theater model is artists trying to force their stories on other artists: an artistic director demanding certain stories be told, a playwright prompting others to say their words, a director determining how an artist emotes, a choreographer controlling how an artist moves. DC theater needs freedom. DC theater needs empowerment. That’s what we strive for. And that’s why we do this over and over: so we can get better at providing that service for artists and giving audiences a true and wild taste of what artists can do when they are empowered.

From ‘The Tarot Reading IV.’ Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

The text of the Arcanists’ announcement is below followed by links to reviews of previous productions.

This message contains two important announcements.

First: due to rising regional COVID transmission rate and uncertainty surrounding new COVID variants, this summer’s production of Tarot VI now canceled.

If you are a current ticket-holder or if you backed the show on IndieGoGo last year, please expect an email from us in the coming days.

All current tickets will be refunded, and we’ll ship any merch purchased as a part of backing the IndieGoGo campaign at no additional cost to you.

If you’ve ever been to The Tarot Reading, you’ve heard us promise to always keep you safe when you’re with us. The magic of the show can’t exist if that promise is broken, or if there’s any degree of doubt. The decision to cancel was a unanimous one. It was made by members of the Board of Directors, Staff, and the Tarot VI artists.

No piece of art is worth risking health and safety.

Second: resulting in part from the ripples of cancellation, we have chosen to bring The Arcanists to a close.

Prior to cancellation, we had intended to announce a leadership transition: Executive Producer Quill Nebeker plans to return to school in 2023, and The Arcanists had intended to move toward a worker-led leadership model. The impact of cancellation made that plan no longer viable.

When we promise to keep everyone safe, that includes those who make our work. We considered a number of ways to try navigating the current circumstances, but they all came back to the same problem: The burden of labor needed put Staff safety at risk. In every path, burnout was the inevitable outcome.

No piece of art is worth risking health and safety.

This was a unanimous decision made by the Board and Staff. While we’re sad things had to happen this way, we are glad and grateful to be able to put things to rest on our own terms. We have already begun to wind things down, and will close formally by the end of August (the end of our current fiscal year).

Right now there are no future plans for The Tarot Reading, The Internet: LIVE!!1 and SHRINES. Hopefully we’ll find a way to box them up for someone to unpack in the future. But before that can happen there’s a great deal of housekeeping, and some much needed rest.

When we started in 2016, we wanted to make something that genuinely changed something about the world for the better—even if that change was just for one single person. Much to our surprise, it actually happened. That’s because a community of adventurous artists and audiences put their trust in one another, and in us.

For that we are forever grateful. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Thank you for sharing your magic with us.

— Alan [Katz], Joan [Cummins], Jon Jon [Johnson], Quill [Nebeker] and the rest of The Arcanists

Joan Cummins as The Fool (center), with Gwen Grastorf (left) and a Seeker (right), in ‘The Tarot Reading (V).’ Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

The Tarot Reading (V)’ at Anacostia Arts Center (review by John Stoltenberg May 12, 2019)
10 Questions for the Brains Behind ‘The Tarot Reading’ (Magic Time! column by John Stoltenberg April 28, 2019)
‘The Tarot Reading (IV)’ at Anacostia Arts Center (review by John Stoltenberg March 12, 2018)
Art, ritual, and connection to meet up at ‘Shrines’ by the Arcanists (news story March 10, 2021)

Pin perk for the Arcanists’ crowdfunding campaign for ‘Tarot VI.’

Quotidian Theatre Company to close, a casualty of COVID-19

COVID claims another local theater: Brave Spirits to close


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