La Jolla Playhouse WoW production director back with ‘The Grift’

Since the La Jolla Playhouse introduced its site-based theater series Without Walls (WoW) — the innovative shows taking place in unique San Diego venues rather than an indoor stage — continue to draw crowds. Tom Salamon, creator of the 2010 WoW production “Accomplice” — extended three times — is back in San Diego with a new show “The Grift.”

The noir-inspired mystery will take place at the Lafayette Hotel, a San Diego landmark. Part drama, part game, attendees will find themselves involved with Ben, who has lived his entire life at the hotel.

Salamon said the idea for “The Grift” came about after he acquired the hotel as an event partner. Intrigued by its ballroom, swimming pool and suites, Salamon’s ideas about con artists and the art of the con, would lend itself well to participatory fun there for audiences.

“After ‘Accomplice,’ the Playhouse and I talked about doing something else,” Salamon said. “I came back and started a location scout of neighborhoods that would offer different experiences and we came across the Lafayette Hotel.”

Diabolical Muse, Salamon’s production company, has created new concepts of work in forms of immersive, experiential entertainment including television, film, web, live public events and tailor-made private events. His productions have been performed in London, New York and Hollywood, and surpassed 125,000 attendees and $6 million in sales.

“Most of my ideas for shows happen in tandem,” he said. “I find a location, wrap my idea about the theme around it and what that would feel like for an audience to come and take part in it, and then I figure out how to best use the space, how the characters would fit in it, and how to use the surroundings to have it feel organic to the story.”

In “The Grift,” a traveling con man’s last wish is to enlist the audience’s help to execute one final, giant swindle. The cast of eight will be scattered throughout the hotel. Part of the show is scripted and part is improvised.

“I wanted to equal what we did with the ‘Accomplice,’ and bring it to another level where it’s going to be even more participatory for the audience to actually learn some cons within this world and execute them,” Salamon said. “The group is all working toward the same goal and yet still having individual hands-on moments where everyone is involved in small ways and big ways.”