Interactive, 1920s-Set Experience ‘Into the Mist’ Returns for One-Night-Only Performance in Evanston

Dusty and June, portrayed by Reilly Anspaugh and Daniel Rashid, in “Into the Mist. (Submitted photo)Dusty and June, portrayed by Reilly Anspaugh and Daniel Rashid, in “Into the Mist. (Submitted photo)

When it felt like the lockdown was at its most isolating point, Evanston-based artist Steve Rashid came up with an idea that engaged the public with arts and culture in a virtually immersive trip back to the Roaring 20s. It’s called “Into the Mist.” 

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It’s a story WTTW News first reported on in spring 2021, when performing artists and entertainers from around the country all gathered via Zoom. The online experience took viewers through different rooms, where they could listen to poetry readings by Langston Hughes, have a dance party with Josephine Baker, attend a rent party, play a game of blackjack and more. This week, they’re back for a one-night-only experience, but this time in person. 

Held at Studio5 in Evanston, Steve Rashid alongside his wife, Bea Rashid, and their sons Robert and Daniel, will create rooms within their studio to give attendees the same opportunity to engage with different artists. 

“It’s been good, it feels really good to work on this with my wife and sons again,” says Steve Rashid. ”I’ve been so gratified that so many people have been so excited to be a part of this.”

“We won’t have all of the original cast,” Rashid continues. “But we do have folks flying in for this performance, like my son Daniel and his girlfriend, and Stephen Ruffin, who plays Langston Hughes.”

For the first hour, the audience will wander through the dance center.

“Hang out at a rent party, take a dance class with Josephine Baker. Visit the Vaudeville team, Morty and Mitzi, go into a room with Langston, play blackjack, but don’t worry you’re not actually gambling,” Rashid says. “There’s also a secret room you’ll have to gain entrance to by performing or engaging in the different rooms—like if you win blackjack, you’ll receive a ticket to gain entry.”

While folks were initially encouraged to dress in theme for the virtual experience, Rashid says it’s certainly encouraged this time around, but not required. But similar to the original experience, folks will still be able to dance and listen to live music by the Chicago Cellar Boys, this time in person. 

“There’s opportunity for us to do things we couldn’t do online, because people will be in the same space,” Rashid says.

One of the featured performers is a husband and wife Vaudeville duo, Morty and Mitzi. They’re formally known as Victoria Zielinski and Paul Barrosse. 

“1927 was a bad year for Vaudeville, because the jazz scene was coming out, so we’re under pressure,” Paul Barrosse says. “We’re bitter about the other comedy acts. Our careers aren’t where we’d like them to be.”

While the pair taped a 40-minute sequence for the original virtual event, this time they will be able to interact with the audience, Victoria Zielinski said.

The performers both currently work as TV producers, in addition to dabbling in other entertainment mediums. They not only play a husband and wife pair, but are also married in real life. They say this makes it that much easier to play a sarcastic couple that go back and forth with backhanded compliments and jokes, which they describe to be “a little racy”.

“I met Mitzi in a revolving door, and we’ve been going around together ever since,” Morty says, shifting back and forth into character. 

When asked about what encouraged the performing artists to reenact this specific time in history, Barrosse attributes it to his upbringing. 

“My dad grew up in the Vaudeville era,” Barrosse said. “So he definitely encouraged my interest. When we were young, the TV stars were former Vaudeville players, like Bob Hope. They performed five to six times a day in their prime, which really taught them to hone their craft. But Vaudeville only had a limited period of time. From about the early 1900s up until the early 1930s. They were the preliminary acts to silent films but once, TV and film came in, they eliminated it.”

Zielinski says their style of comedy is able to incorporate both improve and scripted work.

“But we love the engagement with the audience and the shamelessness style of the husband and wife act,” she said. “It came natural to us. It gives us flexibility to carry the story into other rooms and engage with other performers.”

Stephen Ruffin as Langston Hughes in “Into the Mist.” (Submitted photo)Stephen Ruffin as Langston Hughes in “Into the Mist.” (Submitted photo)

Just like the virtual experience, Rashid says this second round of “Into the Mist” gives the performers an opportunity to recreate a time that parallels to now. 

“The 2020s really mirror the 1920s in so many ways,” Rashid says. “Mainly it being post pandemic. The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, and then we, well sort of, just came out of one. At that time, the stock market looked great but was teetering, women had just gotten the right to vote. Early parts of the Harlem renaissance were forming, there was so much beautiful art that was being created. What was happening in Black culture specifically was so incredible, and in a way mirrors what’s happening now.”

While this performance may be for a single night, Rashid has other plans in mind.

“Our [end] goal is to turn this into a real production with a real run in a theater,” Rashid says. “Because we can’t dive into it so deeply in this one night … but hope to suggest and give people not just an entertaining night, but things to think about after.”

You can catch “Into the Mist” with the Chicago Cellar Boys at Studio5, 1938 Dempster St., in Evanston, on Friday, Oct. 13. Tickets can be purchased here.

Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3

Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.

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