If you’re already worn-out by the 2021 holiday season (like we are,) then here’s an experience that might be right up your alley. Check out the press release for The Krampus Tale below. It’s an experience that’s just opened and runs through the top of 2022. We’ll be there next weekend to try it out ourselves!
Hoof-Prints On History: A Krampus Tale
This season, an old friend comes to visit in a whole new way. Krampus is in town!
For the first time, you humans – naughty and nice – have a chance to win over the
TRUE authority on holiday justice. For the wise, debonair Krampus has a secret plan to show you he is not so bad – and has, in fact, been judged unjustly. He will orchestrate a GRAND UNSMEARING campaign, bringing takeaway treats and entertainment, including lashings and chain knotting demonstrations original song craft and puppetry arts.
You’ll be enthralled for over four hours nearly thirty minutes by the campaign that critics are calling “Twas the Night Before Christmas x 100” and “The gravitas, humor, and poetics of Shakespeare’s entire oeuvre all at once!” It’s sure to add a new tale to your family’s holiday tradition, warming your soul with the inspiration of the season as it’s truly meant to be!
With development assistance from a real human child, this is Krampus’s “best” attempt to tell his story, clearing his name once and for all. Have a Ho-Ho-Horrible holiday with us!
Dates: Generally, Thursdays-Sundays in December (Full list of dates: December 4-5,
December 9-12, December 16-19, December 23, 26, 30, January 1-2)
Notes: Kid Friendly, Outdoor venue (rain or shine), Guests required to wear masks, Wheelchair accessible.
Who: Hoof-Prints on History is conceived by Stephanie Hyden, written and directed by David Ruzicka, and features Darren Herczeg and Stephanie Hyden. Eric Vosmeier and The Bezark Company serve as producers. Production design by Stephanie Hyden. Lighting Design by Ian Momii.
I am deep in the bowels of a mausoleum, my eyes locked behind a blindfold and my gloved hands shoved deep inside something squishy and very wet. (Is it intestines? The chest cavity?) I strain to figure out what the noises in front of me might mean. (Is that ripping skin? Is that a bunsen burner turning on?) All I know for certain is that I am lost in the memories of the true creator of all of this, Mary Shelley. And I fear there is much more horror yet to come for it’s alive.
It’s Alive advertises itself as a “Frankenstein intimate immersive experience.” That description is both accurate and a vast understatement for one of my favorite experiences this Halloween. It’s Alive is far more than a Frankenstein story. It is the story of how Frankenstein came to be. It is the story of why Mary Shelley felt compelled to write about a mad scientist and his poor creation. Best of all, it is a fantastic immersive experience with so many characters and storylines that multiple viewings still won’t catch everything.
It’s Alive begins at the moment Mary Shelley learns of her husband’s death from a boating accident. Because of plague fears at the time, Percy Shelley’s body is cremated. All Mary Shelley receives to bury is Percy’s heart which refused to burn. With that startling piece of emotional imagery in her hands, (more startling still because it’s an actual historical fact,) Mary begins to mourn.
But it’s far more than her husband she grieves for, and It’s Alive delves into the full weight of both Mary and Percy’s histories. Audiences break apart and weave together as they traverse the massive Mountain View Mausoleum, interacting with everyone involved in the creation of Frankenstein. Mary’s sisters whisk individual members off to have a private scene in the darkness. A pair of the audience digs up body parts by a grave outside. A handful spies on Dr. Polidori professing his love to a married woman. For two hours, the show weaves its audience in and out of moments of these peoples’ lives in a way that feels like a combination of ghost story and gothic ballet. By its completion, each audience member will understand exactly why Mary’s tears fall so deeply at yet another moment of grief.
It’s Alive works on every level possible. The writing (from John Armstrong and Devon Armstrong) perfectly combines the style of Shelley and Byron’s poetry and Mary’s novel. And yet, it remains very accessible for modern audiences thanks to director Devon Armstrong’s very smart staging and choices for when to have characters directly interact with audiences. Moreover, a show like this requires exceptional choreographing of its audience so that each member gets a full experience with no wasted time. The first version of this show at the Heritage Center in Los Angeles did this well; this version has perfected that timing into an art form. I was brought through nearly every corner and floor of the mausoleum and never did I feel like I was waiting for anything or anyone.
The cast of It’s Alive also does a stellar job throughout, with every actor working in top form to bring these historical figures to life. Chanel Castañeda effortlessly shifts between the true happiness of Mary in love to the heart-wrenching grief of her loss and captures both perfectly. Jahnavi Alyssa’s portrayal of Claire Clairemont displayed raw grief in such a visceral way it is spellbinding. The deeply sad story of Harriet Shelley (Percy’s first wife) gets an equally (and wonderfully) sad evisceration from Rachel Levy. Alec Gaylord as Percy and James Fowler as Byron capture the egocentrism of those poets and their male-centric “free love” attitudes so well it made me angry at them. Lulu Royce’s version of Fanny was the living embodiment of lost innocence and nearly impossible to watch. Even the one fictional character roaming this performance, Dr. Frankenstein himself, was horrifically presented by Robert Schaefer in a wonderfully dark, twisted persona that drags people off to do monstrous things.
It’s Alive is the perfect example of great immersive theater. It brings a well-crafted and well-executed show to a wonderful location. It imbues the production with a talented cast that knows how to draw their audience ever deeper into their tale. One can hope that shows like these might even become a holiday tradition, for you could do no better for a Halloween night than fall into this exploration of the truth behind the fiction of Frankenstein. For as many of the characters here say, without these people and the life they gave Mary Shelley, the creation would never have been born.
It’s Alive has four more shows this weekend, but only the Saturday at 9PM show has tickets remaining. Tickets are $60 and can be found here. Contact the organizers for any waiting list if you want to try another slot.
They are calling me again. I’ve found myself tasked with absolute control over two different women’s lives. I get to decide what happens to their entire future existence in one instant. It’s a weighty decision on my shoulders and right now, I only know one thing:
I don’t see any good answer.
As the pandemic rolls on, immersive creators continue to experiment with new ways to deliver stories. Candle House Collective created an entire program for such experiments with their FireStarter Initiative. This initiative allows new creators to offer narratives through the CHC site that can give audiences something new and exciting to enjoy.
Recently, the FireStarter Initiative brought audiences the show Lovers Anonymous. This show centers around a strange little place call “Amet”. There’s even a wonderfully retro introduction video created by Amet’s founder, Terence Abernathy. It explains Amet and that you are here because you are an American who has volunteered to help its society. But so many questions remain. Is Amet a city? A cult? A self-governing collective that somehow carved out part of Alaska?
Even stranger, check out the above image from that intro video. In Amet, “Love” is a sign of mental illness and that’s where you come into play. Since Americans do not recognize love as dangerous, we are better suited to decide the fate of two women who have fallen in love. To make that decision, the audience member will get to speak to both of them individually and together.
Lovers Anonymous echoes many of Candle House Collective’s previous audio-only immersive experiences. Candle House Collective specializes in over-the-phone immersive theatrical performances. They put audience members into slightly different realities with people who feel familiar and circumstances that feel terrifyingly unique. Lovers Anonymous thematically fits very well into that sort of show idea.
At the same time, the show also branches into its own territory in several ways. This experience uses multiple forms of technology beyond just audio. It includes audio, text, video calls and even PowerPoint presentations shared from various computers. Each type of technology matches the narrative moment where it appears perfectly. The emotional Lilli wants to see you as she chats while the cerebral Chantal prefers to organize her thoughts beforehand. I have seen literally dozens of various virtual remote shows in the last 16 months and I was still pleased and surprised by this show. Lovers Anonymous really understands how to use technology in a way most immersive shows fail to grasp.
What caught me the most off-guard, however, was how upset this show made me emotionally–in all the right ways. Because of the distancing aspect of technology, most virtual shows have a hard time creating truly deep emotional investment in their audience. It takes just the right combination of story, performance and understanding of how people interact over technology to bridge that gap. Lovers Anonymous reaches right through its technological lines and ripped my heart from my chest.
Its two main women felt entirely real. They each had desires and fears, wants and worries, and I understood it all. It made the decision I ultimately had to make one that hurt almost as much as decisions I have made in my own life. Two entirely fictional characters asked me to choose their future and it broke my heart to do so. Lovers Anonymous is that good a show.
Everything about Lovers Anonymous compels for me. Its design is impeccable. Its use of technology works superbly. Teagen Earley and LaKecia Harris bring such real life to their main women couple of Lilli and Chantal that I honestly wished they were real so I could keep talking to them for years to come. Marvin Bell brought a different but equally real energy as Chantal’s father who had a real bone to pick with America for very good reasons. Sar Cohen and William Youmans brought the strangeness of Amet to life so quickly and efficiently that I also wished Amet was real because I would definitely want to visit and understand what the heck was really going on there. In fact, I hope the creators contemplate bringing that community back for another, different tale. I would love to learn more about the place that hates love.
Lovers Anonymous shows exactly how compelling immersive can be even across technology. It shows that with planning and a true understanding of how we access the modern world, even the technological barrier cannot stop real moments of interaction between characters and audience. The greatest compliment I can give is that I hope Lovers Anonymous returns once more so that other audience members can experience it.
Equally, I hope Candle House Collective continues to use its FireStarter Initiative to bring new creators and experiences to the world. If Lovers Anonymous is what that initiative can help create, I hope they keep starting fires for a long time to come.
Candle House Collective is busy working on their new shows. You can learn more about their company and join their mailing list here.
I stand backstage with the Brassroots District band, holding a ‘band beer’ given to me by their lead guitarist. Normally, I’d be thrilled to have that level of access to a musical group. I’m very uncomfortable thanks to the fight happening between the group’s two lead singers. I may be experiencing a great funk band’s last night together, here in the summer of 1973.
Brassroots District: Live in the Lot Summer ’73 offers an unusual hybrid in the realm of live immersive productions. It’s a combination of a real funk concert performed by the Brassroots District band and an interactive narrative about one crucial evening in the band’s history during the summer of 1973.
Audience members become part of the band’s crowd during a parking lot concert before Sly and the Family Stone do a gig. While the band performs, tensions between band members rise to the surface as a producer arrives with his offers of fame.
Brassroots District: Live in the Lot Summer ’73 offers its audience an immersive experience accessible to almost anyone. Members engage with the story if they wish by interacting with band members, publicists, the producer, a choreographer and even groupies. They can even get a VIP ticket that includes access to the band’s backstage. That backstage area offers more intimate discussion with the characters and unique scenes with actors and audience.
Conversely, an audience member can choose to just come and enjoy one hell of a good 1970’s funk band concert. They can dress up in 1970’s style and spend 90 minutes grooving to music that absolutely sounds like it should have come from that time frame.
Brassroots District: Live in the Lot Summer ’73 is, quite simply, brilliant. The combination of fantastic music and engaging story works perfectly. During the performance I attended, I engaged with actors and band members throughout. I spotted other audience members doing the same. But I also watched in glee as a ton of individuals who clearly were alive the first time 1973 enjoyed a nostalgia trip. They danced and laughed while wearing outfits that might have been sitting in closets for 50 years. Their enjoyment proves the success of this show.
Brassroots District: Live in the Lot Summer ’73 works on every level. From the music to the performances, this show creates a synthesis of joy and togetherness. It is the perfect counterpoint to the isolation of the last 16 months and a reminder that humanity is at its best when we come together in happiness and love. If that sounds like I’ve fallen under the old spell of peace, love and joy then great–blame the band. Brassroots District: Live in the Lot is the kind of show that will give anyone that good a time.
Brassroots District: Live in the Lot Summer ’73 has three remaining shows this weekend (Sat at 4 and 7PM and Sun at 7PM.) Tickets are $55 for general admission and $197 for the VIP Backstage Experience for 2 (which from personal experience I highly recommend.) Tickets can be found here.