The Hinterlands planning theatrical experimentations in Milwaukee

Members of The Hinterlands perform their inaugural show, "Isaac Newton is our DJ"

If you’ve always wanted to see a play that frantically combines Newton’s laws of motion with romance, dance parties and general mania, you’re probably not in the majority.

But, if now that you’ve heard of it, you’re more excited for a play than you’ve been in a long time,  it might be worth your while to check out “Isaac Newton is our DJ,” the first show of the season for new Milwaukee-based experimental theater group The Hinterlands.

The group, founded by co-artistic directors Richard Newman and Marquette alumnus Brian Moore, made its Milwaukee debut with “Newton” in early January at Moct Bar, 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave., and performed to a sold-out crowd.

The play, described promotionally as “one part sensual science experiment, one part rave, and a couple slices of cake,” tells the story of two scientists battling over different interpretations of Newton’s laws — one believes they pull people apart, while the other believes the laws push people together.

Over the course of the performance, the two scientists, through dance and experiments, try to win over the audience. Moore said the play’s action surrounds the viewers, creating a vibrant, rave-like atmosphere.

“It’s not a straightforward performance, it’s a party,” Moore said.

However, since the show was only performed once, Moore said the group decided to offer two encore performances, both tonight and March 11.

“Because we only had one performance, lots of people didn’t get a chance to see the show,” Moore said.

He said the two performances will also help bridge the gap between this show and their next, “The Dead Road,” which won’t open until early May.

In addition, The Hinterlands will be offering monthly theater workshops at their practice space at Bucketworks, 706 S. 5th St., where interested visitors can learn improv and physical theater. The three-hour workshops are partly designed to help The Hinterlands create a two-way investment with the people of Milwaukee, which Moore says is one of The Hinterlands’ ultimate goals.

“We want to be directly involved in a community,” Moore said.

Moore said it was this desire to create community through theater that led him and The Hinterlands back to Milwaukee. A 2004 graduate of Marquette’s theater department and former winner of the Chris Farley scholarship, Moore said he stayed in Milwaukee after graduation and performed with the now-closed Theatre X group before attending graduate school in Blue Lake, Calif., at The Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater.

It was there he met Newman and some of the other members. Moore said he and Newman decided to put a company together after Newman spent a year as an itinerant performer. The pair spent most of a year looking for just the right place to start The Hinterlands, a group which now includes six members, including Moore and Newman.

It turned out Milwaukee was at the top of their list.

“It became really obvious really quickly that this was the place to come back to,” Moore said.

Moore said The Hinterlands’ work will be designed around the improvisational and physical theater skills learned at Dell’Arte. He said the group’s general method for coming up with shows is to start with a central image and then conduct research to explore that idea.

For example, for their next performance, “The Dead Road,” the ensemble is focusing on the central image of the western, and watching westerns like “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and “El Topo” (The Mole) to get a sense of the concept.

After that, the ensemble repeatedly performs improv based on that topic to identify recurring themes.

“Slowly but surely, things start to stick,” Moore said.

Ironically, while The Hinterlands are in Milwaukee for the long haul, Moore said they have no interest in finding a permanent space for performances. Currently, they practice at Bucketworks, a facility that offers creative organizations workspace, and plan to take their shows to other venues.

“We’d need a space that can transform as much as our performances do,” Moore said.

Moore added that the other venues they plan to travel to require trips outside Milwaukee. The troupe has plans to perform “The Dead Road” at Toronto’s Cooking Fire Festival in June, and to perform street theater in Kosovo with Kosovar, Albanian and Roma youths in September.

Regardless of where The Hinterlands travel, Moore says Milwaukee will remain their point of origin.

“Milwaukee is our home,” Moore said.

The Hinterlands will be performing two encores of “Isaac Newton is our DJ” at Moct Bar, tonight and Thursday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $15, and the show is 21+. The Hinterlands will also be offering their monthly workshop at Bucketworks March 6 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The workshop costs $15, and the group recommends calling ahead to reserve a spot by phone at 1-414-208-4237 or via e-mail at info@thehinterlandsensemble.org.