Interactive Immersion in Performing and Visual Arts in “Those Who Lie Beyond”
Ronn Burton, founder of 19th Century Hound, opens their first show in Oklahoma City. “Those Who Lie Beyond” is a fascinating theatrical journey. The presentation style is a new form of theatre that is sweeping the country, and Oklahoma’s diverse theatrical community finds an exciting thrill in this brand-new genre. The idea of immersive theatre is to remove the ‘fourth wall’ between stage and audience, combining the two spaces into one. The audience becomes an integral part of the performance, sometimes as a participant, although it’s not required. Performances can be in a variety of settings, commercial, home and institutional. The main difference between actors and patrons is the actors know their lines but the public doesn’t. Formulating ideas on the first play to present, an opportunity is revealed that’s ideal.
Factory Obscura is a new gallery that’s opened up in a temporary location in the industrial area of South Oklahoma City, and houses this atypical gallery experience. The exhibit is diverse and beautifully put together by talented craftsmen. Walking into the giant sculpted area with whimsical pieces and interacting with the art is a fascinating experience. There are various rooms with unique themes connected by tunnels that seem to be otherworld in some cases, from another world in others. The journey begins by choosing a door that takes you into the interactive art experience.
It became immediately obvious to Burton and Factory Obscura’s Co-Founder, Kelsey Karper, that immersive theatre and interactive art are two modern concepts that belong together. The two art forms are both modern, yet romantic. The flavor of a bygone era in the exhibit is reflected in the performance. However in “Those Who Lie Beyond” and “Beyond” both art forms together become too complicated and confusing. Sensory overload. Too much visual stimulation coupled with too little information. With a little refinement and simplification as well as more advance information it would work beautifully. A reduction in the number of patrons in each tour is a vital adjustment that would eliminate much of the confusion. However, that may not be economically feasible.
The play itself was written for the existing exhibit, and the final script was developed by Alex Prather. There are 19 cast members each in interesting costume. Two of them are guides that lead patrons through the exhibit, while the other actors seem to spend a great deal of time herding patrons rather than performing. When they are performing and can be heard and seen, they are all dynamic. In addition to the collaboration between Factory Obscura and 19th Century Hound between “Beyond” and “What Lies Beyond” two dance entities are participants. They are Race Dance Company and Perpetual Motion Dance.
The plot of “Those Who Lie Beyond” is to follow two sisters who are searching for something unknown. A few audience members are called upon to assist, secretly. At the end, apparently the sisters find what they are looking for, but no one seems to know what that is. The two guides are spiritualists, one with tarot cards and another reading tea leaves. These docents periodically provide some explanations as the audience is shepherded from one space to another. The art is intricate, the play is intricate and the result is dueling intricacies. Nevertheless there are profoundly interesting performances from many of the players. In spite of the confusion in the piece Todd Clark’s performance as Host and Father is exceptional. Regina J. Banks is wonderfully royal. Ashley Frisbee as Clara and Morgan Smith as Flora are lovely as the searching sisters. Mary Buss is the beloved mother, Kathrin, a tender role, and the no-nonsense Aunt Agatha is Sarah Lomize. The two spiritualists are Zaneen Hotchkiss (Mystic Zed) and Anna Holloway (Mystic Alpha) and together they tell our fortunes with some clarity and more mystery. There aremany aspects the audience unfortunately misses.
Nevertheless, it is a fascinating and excellent endeavor. 19th Century Hound is off to a solid start in providing unique theatrical experiences. Those interested in attending would be well advised to reserve for the 10:00 show, and visit the gallery before seeing the show. It is open until 9:00 pm.
Both concepts are brilliant. Factory Obscura is showing “Beyond” through December 21, 2018. The gallery is open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 12:00 to 7:00 pm and Friday and Saturday from 12:00 to 9:00 pm. Children are free and will love the exhibit. There is no admonition of ‘Don’t Touch!’ to be heard. “Those Who Lie Beyond” runs through November 17, 2018. For tickets and information visit www.19thcenturyhound.com. Show times are 9:15 and 10:00 after Factory Obscura closes. The walk through is about 45 minutes. The admonition to wear comfortable shoes and avoid flowing skirts should be heeded. The address is 1522 South Robinson in Oklahoma City.