No, there definitely weren’t any ninjas in ancient Pompeii. But starting in March, there will be Theater Ninjas in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
This spring, the Cleveland-based theater company Theater Ninjas  will be on “loan” to the Cleveland Museum of Art. In conjunction with the exhibition The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection , they’ll present the latest version of their original performance "The Excavation” in The Ames Family Atrium, plus special in-exhibition interactive experiences during March, April, and May.
The Theater Ninjas specialize in creating out-of-the ordinary theater experiences. And this collaboration is definitely anything but ordinary. Like The Last Days of Pompeii, “The Excavation” explores how the ancient city of Pompeii resonates with the modern imagination, celebrating the life, death and re-discovery of Pompeii, using a wide cast of characters ranging from archaeologists to gladiators to star-crossed lovers.
The seeds of the collaboration were planted in 2011, when The Last Days of Pompeii curator Jon Seydl attended “The Excavation” during its original run .
“The Last Days of Pompeii looks at Pompeii in the modern imagination, exploring how every generation since the first excavations has created new ideas about the buried cities," Seydl said. "Little did I know that others in Cleveland were thinking about Pompeii in a remarkably similar way. The 78th Street Studios became a museum, an archaeological dig, a lecture hall, an apocalyptic dance party, and more – moving the audience around the building. Irreverent comedy mixed with sober reflections, all asking why we remain fascinated with Pompeii so long after its destruction and what that enduring interest tells us about ourselves. It was really funny, extremely smart, quite moving, and thought-provoking. And they grappled with the same big questions the other curators and I were probing, but from a completely different perspective.”
The Theater Ninjas have re-designed the performance to work within The Ames Family Atrium, a very different space from the second floor of the 78th Street Studios in Gordon Square. Although logistically the performance is almost completely new, the heart of “The Excavation” remains true to its original aims – trying to make sense of the phenomenon that is Pompeii, and what our continued fascination with the ancient city tells us about who we are.
“We can never truly know Pompeii,” writes Jeremy Paul, Artistic Director of the Theater Ninjas, “but through attempting to do so, we might inadvertently learn something about ourselves.”
Unlike a traditional play, “The Excavation” has no seats and no stage. Instead, the characters will spread out across the atrium, and it’s up to you to decide what to see. “The Excavation” opens March 1 during MIXUP Apocalypse . A ticket is required to attend the March 1 performance at MIXUP. Tickets $14 non-members, $7 members. Advance reservations highly recommended.
All other performances are free, and multiple visits are highly encouraged. Due to the interactive, dynamic nature of the performance, it’s difficult to experience everything “The Excavation” has to offer in a single visit.
Wednesday, March 20 7:00 p.m.
Friday, April 12, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 28, 2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 12, 7:00 p.m.
Characters from “The Excavation” will also be ‘on loan’ to the exhibition two days a week, leading journeys, performing scenes, and bringing the art on the walls to life. Visit the exhibition Fridays and Sundays to see who’s there – and come back often. No two Ninja Days will be alike!
Experience Ninja Days Friday, March 8 through Sunday, May 19. The Ninjas will take a break for the Easter Holiday March 29 and 31; and for April 12 and 28, when they’ll be performing the full version in the atrium. Come anytime between 3:00 – 7:00 PM on Fridays and 12:00 – 4:00 PM on Sundays.
-- Bethany Corriveau, Audience Engagement Specialist
Funding for the Theater Ninjas has been generously provided by The Cleveland Museum of Art's Painting and Drawing Society, Dr. Nancy Clay-Marsteller, Antoinette Miller, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Schubert.