It’s Alive: The Creation of The Creation — The EOI Review

The cast of It's Alive: The Frankenstein Immersive Experience

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.

Chanel Castaneda as Mary Shelley

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 Cast at the Mountain View Mausoleum

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.

Dr. Frankenstein (Robert Schaefer) summons you.

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.

Percy Shelley (Alec Gaylord)

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.


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‘The Place You Once Forgot’ Happily Helps You Remember – EOI Review

Visual Heading for this EOI Review

Through a Zoom screen, I talk to an entity whose name perfectly describes what we are both doing. We are building a narrative, piece by piece, centered on a penguin named Chester. Now, as I write this review, I am not certain why that is his name. But I chose the name myself and boy, did it make sense at the time. I guess that’s what happens in The Place You Once Forgot.

Stars of The One Place You Forgot
Karlie Blair and Megan Combes, the visual stars of the show

The Place You Once Forgot first appeared as a live performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019. Once the pandemic hit, it came back during the fall of 2020 as an online performance (which is when I got the chance to see it). This weekend the show ends a second online run. If you have not yet experienced this charming solo dive into your own imagination, you should grab a slot before it evaporates into the same ethereal realm where the show itself lives.

Consisting of 2 phone calls and 2 Zoom interactive scenes, The Place You Once Forgot works very simply. In fact, from both the structural and technical aspects, the show comes across as basic in its nature. But the simplicity of the design and technology work as great strengths for this show.  You see, the production team at Ladybug & Leviathan want nothing to get in the way of the true focus of the show: you.

Souvenir from The One Place You Forgot
The Place You Once Forgot Remembers Your Story

You are the centerpiece of this experience. You and that soft, sweet place in your creative mind that you many of us have forgotten, especially at the tail end of the lost year 2020. Everything about this show focuses on you. Terence Leclere’s phone calls bring your attention on yourself and how you feel, readying you for what is to come. The Story (played in sweet, calm tones by Karlie Blair) leads you to creating a story that could have come directly from you as 8 or 10 years old. Megan Combes as The Key charmingly coaxes you into drawing to your best ability. In my case, such drawing is inevitably terrible–and yet with Megan, I was relaxed enough to get out of my own critical mind.

It is that last sentence that makes this show work for me beautifully. As adults, we have the tendency to be ever so critical of ourselves. This was wrong. That could have been better. What were we thinking? For just a few minutes, The Place You Once Forgot breaks through that noise. By having three individuals legitimately care about you, the world quiets. We can think and imagine and draw and relax. By letting us be ourselves, The Place You Once Forgot brings us right back to that place and helps us remember it still exists. In the chaos of the world, such a reminder is worth its weight in charm and joy.

The Place You Once Forgot has two more nights of performances on April 9 and April 10. Tickets run $27 and can be found here.


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‘Rio Records’ Flows Through Space and Time – EOI Review

Rio Records is an online immersive production about the LA River.

I may be sitting in front of my computer in the real world, but in my mind I am lost in a story that flows through space and time and centers on a medicinal recipe turned into a massive corporation fortune. Rio Records is definitely a trip to be on…

… and yours will be entirely different.

This immersive experience focuses on the LA River.
All Images Courtesy Rio Reveals

In our current crisis era, those of us who love and/or create immersive entertainment have lost one of the great elements of the art. We can’t physically experience things. We can’t find ourselves in unique locations or strange circumstances in the same way as before. Multiple companies have attempted to recreate that sense of ‘being somewhere’ with greater or lesser success. Based on my journey through 13Exp’s newest creation, Rio Records accomplishes what few shows I’ve seen recently have done. It transports me to somewhere else.

On a purely technical level, the show works as many other remote interactive and immersive shows do. Audience members use the internet in two ways during the 80-minute show, through a custom-built interactive opening site and through a later Zoom call. Cell phones can also be part of the experience. Both live and pre-recorded elements add to the narrative each audience member enjoys.

On the design side, the show represents the work of over 70 artists that creates a tapestry focusing on the past, present and future of the LA River.  Over 700+ minutes of content has been created, allowing a show that has multiple different story paths that weave in and out of each other. It’s a design that hopes audiences will return more than once to the experience as each trip they can follow an entirely different path through the show. Rio Records also adds a civic-minded element through raising both awareness and funds to help revitalize the LA River in the near future.

In the experience, however, Rio Records explodes beyond its setup. It becomes something far, far more interesting.

Over 70 artists collaborated on the show.

My particular journey focused on an indigenous medical recipe stolen from a housekeeper by her employer. That employer then turned that recipe into a fortune, none of which was shared with the person it was stolen from or her family. I was treated to multiple forms of entertainment including comic books, live phone calls, hacked messages, recorded video and live streaming moments. The variation and approach of the artists towards the subject matter excited me and occasionally moved me emotionally.

The show allows each audience member to choose their path forward multiple times during the show, with each choice leading to a different outcome in terms of both art and narrative. For some audience members, this sheer open nature may be intimidating or confusing. But I chose to follow the request of the LA River (yes, she is an actual character in the show) and let the experience flow over me. Whenever I had the chance to make a choice, I made it instinctively and let the story build in its own time. By letting myself simply enjoy each moment as it came, I quickly lost my sense of being in my own home and watching through a computer screen. Instead, I found myself in an almost heightened state, relishing each element for its own sake and as it added to the story. I highly recommend other audience members approaching the show in the same manner.

Unfortunately, the show does not succeed on all fronts. In its final segment, audience members join a Zoom call that happens narratively in the future. I understand the goal of this segment, which is to suggest both challenges and potential solutions for the LA River as we move through the 21st century. The execution of this goal feels problematic. First, the audience is asked for their input in choosing appropriate solutions for the river. We get too little time and information about those solutions to give that input. Second, brief snippets of narrative conflict (such as someone who might have a conflict of interest) feel like they should be able to be explored but cannot be because the show is nearly over. This end segment feels rushed and tacked onto the experience in order to recognize the real importance of the LA River to Los Angeles as a whole. While the idea may be noble, this segment could easily have been an entire show on its own and probably would work far better as one. Instead it drags down the beautiful flow of the rest of the show into a strange, confusing end.

Rio Records is a show that I sincerely hope people turn out to experience in its final weekend. Beautiful and elegant in so many ways, Rio Records offers a respite from shows that lock us behind our screens. If you let it wash over you, the show can float you into a story you choose from moment to moment. It can connect you to the incredible work of current artists and to stories based on the history of one of Los Angeles’ important elements. I recommend this experience as something different and strange and absolutely worth your evening.

Rio Records has four more performances through this Sunday, February 7. Tickets run from $25-40 and can be found here.


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Eye on the Horizon: Ceaseless Fun Returns with Everyone Agrees it’s About to Explode – ON SALE NOW

Theatre fans, rebels, revolutionaries, and revelers! We are once again blessed with an upcoming performance from Los Angeles’ Ceaseless Fun: Everyone Agrees It’s About to Explode!

Check out the following press release for specific details, but know this: Ceaseless provides some of the most thought-provoking, articulate theatre we’ve ever encountered, and we are very excited to welcome them back for the next addition to an already powerful repertoire.

So get your balaclavas on, and shake your Molotov Cocktails, because Everyone agrees…Ceaseless Fun is back.

(all photos by Nic Murphy.)


Everyone Agrees It’s About to Explode

LA-based performance production company, Ceaseless Fun, is proud to announce Everyone Agrees it’s About to Explode, an immersive performance created by Derek Spencer.

EAIATE, ceaseless fun

Everyone Agrees It’s About to Explode (EAIATE) is an immersive theater production about radical politics, factionalism, the allures of power, and the role of the arts in political change. Under the cover of darkness, members of a small leftist insurrectionary group sneak into a vacant building in order to hold their meeting and plan their anarchist activities. The audience is cast as new recruits in the group, and at first the meeting goes as planned. But as old arguments surface, the group finds itself on the brink of collapse.

EAIATE, ceaseless fun

Originally devised with the ensemble, EAIATE pits conflicting ideologies against one another and asks the audience to consider their place in these timeless conflicts. Everyone agrees that the correct answer is always a synthesis of many possible answers.

EAIATE is an immersive, site specific work. Audience members should expect to be touched and interacted with directly.

Trigger warning for gun violence, dark spaces, loud noises, and suicide/self-harm.


WHAT: Everyone Agrees It’s About to Explode

WHERE: Lincoln Heights, LA Los Angeles, California 90031

*Location to be distributed once tickets are purchased (Please note that this location is not wheelchair accessible.)

WHEN: Thursdays – Sundays, March 12 – April 5

RUNTIME:Approximately 105 minutes

TICKETS: $55, available at https://everyoneagrees.brownpapertickets.com/

A limited number of $20 income accessibility tickets will be released for each show. Tickets are ON SALE NOW.

EAIATE, ceaseless fun

Creator/Director: DEREK SPENCER

Creative Producer: MEREDITH TREINEN

Ensemble:

ZACHARY CARLISLE

WOODROW CURRIE

DAKOTA LOESCH

SCOTT MONAHAN

MADALINA NASTASE

KATIE PEABODY

MARISSA PETULLO

SOREN ROYER-MCHUGH

MARTHA WOLDU

Associate Director: TALIA SHEA LEVIN

Associate Producer: NIC MURPHY

Stage Manager: LANE HARRISON

Lighting Designer: JOSEPHINE WANG

Sound Design: HELENA MCGILL & ANNA WOZNIEWICZ

Costume Design: LAUREN WEST

Set & Props: BRITT KELLER


Ceaseless Fun fosters empathetic and socially-engaged discourse through feverishly philosophical and playfully illicit live experiences. It is headed by Derek Spencer (Artistic Director) and Meredith Treinen (Creative Producer). Past theatrical productions include The Stars (2018), They Who Saw The Deep (2018), Agnosia (2018), Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (2017), GRANDPA JOHNSON IS DEAD! (2016, in partnership with Scarlett Kim & Co.).

Visit Ceaseless Fun at their website for more engaging content!

Eye On the Horizon: Where the Others Are from E3W Productions

Welcome to Eye on the Horizon, where we’ll share press releases and other announcements that we’re excited for.

Today, we’re thrilled to announce the return of the much beloved E3W Productions, who are bringing us another passionate look at intimate theatre with Where the Others Are, a twoaudience member show that takes place in a vintage Airstream trailer. We are entirely too eager for this one.

Why not enjoy some choice quotes from our Editor in Chief about prior E3W shows?

  • In Another Room 2017: “…they have done something truly remarkable: they have managed to capture a true and harrowing series of emotions without abandoning a dark undercurrent. Through a remarkable use of space, the ongoing and welcome use of musical cues for story beats, and strong acting, In Another Room provides an evocative and unique glimpse into tragedy. This is not a haunted house. This is a house that leaves you haunted.Review at Haunting

  • In Another Room 2018: “The spaces E3W creates are so intricate that they exist in a perfect sense of hyper-reality; they are at once impossible and so, so real.” Review at Haunting

See the full details in the press release below!

Please visit E3W on their website or on Instagram for more updates on Where the Others Are, and follow us here and on Instagram for more updates on evocative content you should keep your Eye On.

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Please note: the link below will go live at 10am on 2/10/20

Show Title – Where the Others Are

Tickets on sale – Monday, 2/10 at 10am

Ticket link – https://wtoa.brownpapertickets.com

Details – 2 audience members, 1 hour show

Price – $90

Dates – March 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

A desperate plea from an old friend brings you to the doorstep of her neglected trailer. She’s finally ready to leave her abusive husband, and she wants your help. But he may not be what he appears to be. And her problem may be beyond human comprehension.

‘Where the Others Are’ is the new site-specific immersive experience from E3W Productions, the team behind the acclaimed ‘In Another Room’ series. Now, E3W delivers its most intimate piece yet. You and one other person will be welcomed as guests into a 1980s Airstream, where something otherworldly is brewing between the couple who lives there. Step inside Ben and Maggie’s world and witness the unexplainable, as they confront questions of existence, connection, identity, and meaning—within themselves, within their marriage, and within the claustrophobic confines of their vintage RV. 

While ‘Where the Others Are’ is not a horror experience, please be aware that there will be light physical contact, moments of complete darkness, frightening material, and adult content and themes.

Due to the nature of this show, audience mobility is required. Guests will be asked to sit, stand, walk, climb stairs, and enter tight spaces.

The exact location of the trailer will be sent to you on the day before your scheduled visit. 

E3w productions, where the others are