Zoom Tarot Readings with Madame Daphne Mixes Camp with Compassion

Madame Daphne virtually imparting the wisdom of the Tarot
Madame Daphne virtually imparting the wisdom of the Tarot Photo by J. Cameron Cooper

Oh Madame Daphne, how I've missed you. Not that I'm happy it took a full-blown pandemic to realize that your brand of mysterious and compassionate camp is exactly the balm I needed. But here we are. Needing this kind of strangely wonderful distraction more than ever.

If you attended Strange Bird Immersive’s part theater part escape room production, The Man From Beyond, you’ll be familiar with the oxblood-lipped, smokey-eyed, velvet-robbed medium that welcomed us to the show by inviting us into her dusky lair.

There, she offered patrons three-card Tarot readings to help us forget the outside world, fully engage and get in the mood. Fast forward to five months into this hellish global virus, Madame Daphne may not be able to see us in person, but thanks to technology and the nimble-minded folks at Strange Bird Immersive, she can now receive us via Zoom from her very same lair.

Zoom Tarot Readings with Madame Daphne (featuring Haley E. R. Cooper, Amanda Marie Parker and Lexie Jackson in rotation) is an interactive, 15-minute, ten-card Tarot reading done one patron at a time. Theater at it's most intimate. Or as intimate as technology will allow.

The fun starts even before you sit in front of your screen. A confirmation of your reading arrives from the Secretary to the Raven Queen. What Secretary? Who is the Raven Queen? No idea, but a great name nonetheless. Madame Daphne will see us they say. Do not be late, the cards await.

It’s a great anticipation builder – even during a time when just getting groceries may be a highlight of your day.

At our appointed time, there she appears. Exactly as I remembered her. Her taxidermy falcon (or is it a raven?) Walter still sitting over her shoulder in the large birdcage.

How the Zoom begins depends on if you've had the pleasure of meeting Madame or not. But after some evocative small talk, the important question comes. How are you feeling? Important, as it will drive the interpretation for the rest of the reading.

Frustrated was the first thing that came to my mind, so that's what we went with.

What follows is a traditional Celtic Cross ten-card Tarot reading. Each card representing something different – your present situation, what's complicating it, where you've been, possible opportunities, where you're going, etc.

And Madame makes it both entertaining and meaningful.

Two of Swords (a blindfolded woman, dressed in a white robe, holding two crossed swords) was the first card – representative of my present situation. Difficult decisions, weighing up options, an impasse. Perhaps my frustration is due to not knowing which way to turn, what to do next? Um, yeah! You try being a theater critic when there's no theater to review.

Not all of the ten cards hit that close to home, but between her alluring presence, ability to weave a picture, and an overall message of finding a new sense of purpose/dealing with what’s in front of you, the reading felt insightful and deliciously personal. Not to mention theatrical and a whole lot of fun.

If a quibble is to be had, it's how fast it all seems to go. Fifteen minutes isn't a lot of time to wrap your head around the meaning of each card. Plus, if your brain is like mine and has somewhat gone to mush in all these months of doing nothing, it’s difficult to remember everything that was said during the session.

Perhaps the Secretary to the Raven queen could send us a follow-up email listing the cards we chose to help jog our memory or allow us to investigate their meaning further?

Or maybe that’s the point. Maybe this is an of the moment experience and you take away from it what you’re meant to.

One of my final cards, the Eight of Cups, represents disappointment, abandonment, withdrawal says Madame Daphne. Perhaps to quell my dissatisfaction it’s time to walk away from something that isn’t giving me what I need.

Perhaps. But this I know for certain, Madame, regardless if it’s the lack of theater that’s causing my frustration, I will never walk away from my job as a critic. Especially not when innovative Zoom shows like this are happening.

Keep it up, Houston theater-makers. Madame Daphne says I need to find new purpose.

Zoom Tarot Readings with Madame Daphne run Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. For tickets visit $20
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Jessica Goldman was the theater critic for CBC Radio in Calgary prior to joining the Houston Press team. Her work has also appeared in American Theatre Magazine, Globe and Mail and Alberta Views. Jessica is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
Contact: Jessica Goldman