Rorschach’s inventive ‘Dissonant City’ to culminate with ‘Angel Number Nine’

After months of boxes in the mail to be explored at one’s own pace, the story and audience will all converge to feel the music live and in person.

For anyone who has ever fallen in love with music, you know the feeling when Cupid’s arrow hits your heart and the song (or band or genre) you hear becomes part of your life’s soundtrack. In Rorschach Theatre’s third Psychogeography Project, Dissonant City, the Roman God has found a path through the musical history of Washington, DC, and acted as an immortal guide, observer, documenter, and disrupter. With the upcoming live performance and culmination of the project, Angel Number Nine, it seems that Cupid’s arrow will strike once again.

From the show description:

When Angel meets Cupid in a bar and her band gets an opening slot on a tour, life takes some unexpected turns into a past she tried to leave behind. Part rock show, part booze-soaked road trip through the dive bars and dark clubs of the late ’90s East Coast music scene, Angel Number Nine promises to show us that the things we need are sometimes found on the roads we tried to avoid.

Subscribers to the Dissonant City project are eagerly awaiting this live performance, having taken a musical tour of Washington, DC, over the past seven months. Each of the six mystery boxes mailed to homes (the seventh is set to arrive imminently) includes a location, a visitor’s guide with instructions and the path to follow, and a packet of objects that reveal the larger story of Dissonant City. Through the course of this journey, I and my fellow psychogeographers have traveled through time, from the mid-1800s to the 1990s, and a variety of musical styles.

Performers in ‘Angel Number Nine.’ Photo courtesy of Rorschach Theatre.

Through the ages, we marched to Sousa at the Congressional Cemetery, moshed to punk at a church/concert venue, explored Capital Hill with a classic Korean folk song, snapped to jazz at a record shop, reflected on the tumultuous 1960s on U Street with a soundtrack Otis Redding, and grooved to Go-Go in Anacostia. I read beautiful letters, studied photographs, ate candy, listened to records, and pored over artifacts that turned my walking tour into a voyeuristic snapshot into a character’s life. And thankfully, an accessible video version was available for the few times I couldn’t get out of the house but still wanted to continue on this harmonious odyssey.

As we ventured through history, there was clear attention brought to the differences between the past and the present. Juxtaposing historical photos and descriptions of the past was powerful when faced with the world in real time. The buildings, people, and businesses have mostly changed — and the ones that have endured overcame quite a lot to remain.

The characters in each installment were changed by music, including feeling a first taste of freedom after a conservative religious upbringing, loving a new genre so much as to abandon a job and commit to a lifetime of preserving that music, and leaving one’s home country and straying from the traditional family path to pursue one’s passion. And all involved meddling from Cupid — taking a variety of forms and reporting back to Psyche after striking the hearts of those around them.

Entrance to the ‘Angel Number Nine’ venue. Photo courtesy of Rorschach Theatre.

The project will soon go out with a bang with Angel Number Nine. After several months of boxes in the mail and exploring at one’s own pace, the story and audience will all converge on 1020 Connecticut Avenue NW to feel the music live and in person. Rorschach is taking on the significant task of converting a former retail space into a ’90s rock bar and highly immersive theatrical experience. With a bar for drinks, curated listening stations, vinyl for sale, and an exhibit highlighting DC’s musical history, this promises to be more than an average night at the theater.

While those who have experienced the full Dissonant Cities experience may find a special connection in Angel Number Nine, the show can be appreciated by anyone. If you missed out on the seven-chapter psychogeography experience, it should not affect your ability to rock out and enjoy this play.

Angel Number Nine will play July 7 to 30, 2023, presented by Rorschach Theatre performing at Washington Square, 1020 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC (near the Farragut North Metro Station). Purchase tickets ($30–$45) online. Pay-What-You-Can Previews July 7-9. Discounts, including information about limited $10 tickets, can be found here. This show contains mature content. For more detailed descriptions visit     

COVID Safety: At this time masks are optional for audience members, staff, and artists. All staff and artists have been vaccinated. Vaccination checks are not required for audience members. We will continue to monitor and follow guidelines and recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and DC Health (DCH). Our COVID-19 Safety Practices & Policies are continually being refined to ensure a safe, clean, comfortable experience for everyone, and practices and plans will be updated as circumstances and guidelines change.

DISSONANT CITY created by  Kylos Brannon, Adam Ferguson, Jenny McConnell Frederick, navi, and Jonelle Walker

Adapted by James L. Rogers III and Jenny McConnell Frederick from the novel by James L. Rogers III
Original Music composed by Shawn Northrip
FEATURING Ian Armstrong, Billy Bob Bonson, Veronica Bundy, Lauren Farnell, Kate Kenworthy, Irene Hamilton, Bri Houtman, Max Johnson, James Carlos Lacey, CC Meade, and Robert Bowen Smith.
DESIGNED BY Nadir Bey (Set), Kylos Brannon (Video), Ashlynne Ludwig (Costumes), James Morrison (Lights), Ian Vespermann (Sound) and Luke Hartwood (Props).
WITH Shawn Northrip (Music Director), Caraline Jeffrey (Stage Manager), Christian Sullivan (Technical Director), Malory Hartman (Master Electrician), Tabitha Littlefield (House Manager), Michael Kyrioglou (Box Office Manager), and Germar Townsend (Production Manager)
PRODUCED BY Randy Baker and Jenny McConnell Frederick

Rorschach Theatre to premiere immersive rock experience (news story, May 29, 2023)
Embrace curiosity. Rorschach Theatre’s ‘Dissonant City’ begins. (review by Rebecca Calkin, November 28, 2022)


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