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Showing posts from 2016

Top Five Works of Art Discovered/Experienced in 2016.

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1. Blackstar - David Bowie


This had to be #1. I am still crushed by his death and this incredible, moving, ambitious, risk-taking piece of art he left behind. The term "Blackstar" in my house has taken on significance in the wake of his death. This album quite frankly inspires me to get off my ass and create, and hopefully do so without fear, without self, without ego. I'm still planning to get the sequence of six partial black stars tattooed on my wrist in homage to him, maybe for his birthday in January.

2. Learning Curve - Albany Park Theatre Project/Third Rail Projects


This was just a stunning piece of theatre, possibly the best theatre I've ever seen, and had Bowie not put an amazing album out this year this would easily have been #1. I wrote about it for No Proscenium. So much immersive theatre is dark, moody, fantasy/mystery/thriller based and not exactly something with which we easily identify. But we've all been to high school. This is a piece that took …

Gratitude, or Why This is the Best Christmas Ever.

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This is my favorite time of year. And this has been a brutal year on so many levels, mostly on the global/geopolitical level, though I've had some minor difficulties of my own. But I love the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and have been waiting all semester for the break when I could just become a hermit, enjoy the long nights by the Christmas tree wrapped up in warm blankets watching movies and writing or reading or cross stitching or whatever-ing.

My normal holiday plans were thwarted a bit this year.

Some people would probably expect me to say that the holidays were "ruined," but they weren't. I spent Thanksgiving weekend sleeping in hospital waiting rooms and hoping that the next person to enter the room would bring me good news. I held two fingers of the hand of the person I loved most in the world and thought of all the ways I'd taken him for granted during 2016. I mentally canceled Christmas because I was told it was going to be a 4-6 week recove…

Inaction gets us nothing.

On December 19 the Electoral College convenes to cast its votes for president.

They don't have to vote for Trump. They can vote their conscience. It's called being a faithless elector.

The Electoral College was created specifically for this - it's up to us to make it happen.

Today I wrote to the electors from the states who are able to do this (in some states they are legally bound to vote for the winner). This is my letter:

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Dear Elector,

I am writing to urge you to exercise your right to not vote for Donald Trump in the Electoral College. You currently represent a state that does not bind an elector, and I am urging you to take advantage of that fact.

The Electoral College was formed with the understanding that the electors would help decide a sitting leader who was “capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to g…

Dear Mr. Trump - A letter from the "real world"

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Dear Mr. Trump.

You don't know me, and you've done absolutely nothing to show me that you care about me or that you intend to be "my" president, should you actually somehow win on November 8 (Nate Silver seems to think that's highly unlikely right now). Seeing as my blog only averages 200 hits on a post that is related to The Tension Experience, which this is not, or is found by people looking for the location of Hecate's ring (by the way guys - I don't think she hides it anymore, you can stop looking), I doubt you'll see this at all.

But your "apology" really enraged me - the one you read off a teleprompter, the one that sounded more like a threat leveled at a woman (your opponent) rather than anything contrite. Yes, the tape was from ten years ago. When you were 59, not 19. See, normally when we say things like "he said that ten years ago" we are referring to someone in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, when the maturity difference of ten…

Immersive Adventures in Los Angeles: TENSION: ASCENSION, and mirrors held up to ourselves

"This is a mirror being held up to a person. It's an art installation. It's a living, breathing thing that you interact with. And it will only be unlocked based on how far you're willing to go."
- Darren Lynn Bousman

"None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me."
- Rorschach

Two quotes that, combined, encapsulate my experience on Friday night at The Tension Experience: Ascension.

This is going to take some explaining, and it's going to get personal.

Recently I had a surreal conversation with a friend from high school who made a confession to me that took me completely by surprise. A confession that he could have made twenty years ago when it mattered, but now comes twenty years too late and no longer DOES matter beyond fond memories and ego stroking and reflections on how stupid we all are at that age, how limited our perspectives on our selves and others really can be. After the confession he …

Shifting of the gaze.

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On Tuesdays I have my students bring in images they find compelling, and we discuss each one of them in turn and why - attempting to keep the discussion to elements of design, or the storytelling that might be going on in the image. (Thanks, Laura Eckelman, for this exercise!) Sometimes that can be difficult - why THIS IMAGE, not the movie it's advertising or the book that it's from or the memories it evokes, but the image we are looking at on this paper. It's also challenging to get students in both a digital world AND an increasingly environmentally conscious one to work with actual paper. I love that Mac students are as aware as they are and as enthusiastic about making change, but it can be a challenge for art and design classes where resources are consumed.

Recently one student brought in this image:

I don't actually know the story behind this image, where it's from, who to attribute it to, and I will be happy to do that if someone can tell me. The discussion …

Immersive Adventures in Chicago: "Learning Curve"

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This is going to sound like a review, and I don't mean it to, but I need to rave about this show.

I was in Chicago from Thursday until yesterday for the 2016 ATHE conference (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) and I had put myself on the waiting list for tickets for "Learning Curve," the immersive theatre collaboration between Third Rail Projects, Albany Park Theatre Project, and the Chicago school district. It's been getting amazing reviews and its entire run has been sold out but there's an option to add yourself to the wait list for any given performance, which is what I did, and I got lucky. Actually, because the tickets were only $40, I ended up getting three because I had expected to pay over $100 (I just bought tickets to "The Grand Paradise" and they were over $100, as are tickets to "Then She Fell," and if they're not $100, tickets to "Sleep No More" are close). I found two other people two give those tickets t…

Another Tension Experience Update (& Meta-ish Thoughts)

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Yesterday something pretty amazing happened within the world of The Tension Experience and I wanted to write about it even though it didn't happen to me. To me, this event represented a significant step forward in the [whatever-this-experience-is] because it did NOT happen in Los Angeles.

Early evening central time, Tension started broadcasting on Periscope from an unknown park. It took everyone awhile to figure out where this park was located, because it wasn't local to LA - most of the time the ones in LA they are able to figure out quickly, because the bulk of the participants live there, and the videos usually zoom in on a landmark or sign identifying the place. This video began with a close up of a photograph of this statue - which is in Kansas City. I should also mention that the video was addressed to a specific participant "M." M., like me, is located in the midwest, actually fairly close to Kansas City. As the broadcast went on, we saw a path through a park …

The Day WE Shook the Capitol

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June 25, 2013 - The day I posted 76 times on Facebook over the course of 7 hours from the same seat in the Texas senate gallery. I took my seat sometime around 5pm and there came a point where they locked the doors - if I got up to pee, get water, eat, I wouldn't be allowed back in. That, of course, was nothing compared to what Wendy Davis was going through. She had been on her feet the entire day, filibustering SB5 (which later became known as HB2). This bill ushered in some of the most draconian, restrictive measures to abortion access in the entire country, and the gallery was full of women wearing orange who were there to support Davis in her efforts.

She just had to talk until midnight.

Filibusters in Texas are more of an ordeal than elsewhere. More rules to follow. More difficult. This wasn't a case of Davis opening up the phone book and reading until the clock ran out. She had to stay on her feet, on topic, without assistance, without leaning on her desk, without......

Immersive Adventures in Los Angeles Part 3 - "The Day Shall Declare It"

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On Friday of my Los Angeles trip, I went to see Wilderness's immersive theatre production "The Day Shall Declare It." I'd heard many, many, many positive reviews and recommendations of this show and my expectations were fairly high. I'd also bought the "Tennessee" ticket, which was billed as only for the adventurous (whatever that means - to go see any immersive theatre you have to be a LITTLE adventurous). Because I'd heard my friend Mike's podcast reviewing the show before I got on a plane (he co-hosts My Haunt Life with Russell Eaton) I knew that I'd basically "bought" a one-on-one. I'm perfectly fine with that.

My first thought upon entering the space was - do all immersive shows have to take place in the same time period? Are we just able to source props/sets/costumes quickly and easily, and create those environments more readily than others? Maybe I'm being unfair, I just felt like I'd walked straight into "S…

Immersive Adventures in Los Angeles Part 2 - THE TENSION EXPERIENCE, CONT.

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Sunday morning I had a message that said I was going to be getting an address for a meeting on Monday. This came from Aleister, who has been in touch with me regularly throughout the time I've been part of the OOA. Sunday night several participants I met through The Tension Experience (we really have formed a community of friends through this) met at the Santa Monica Pier after dark. For me it was my first time meeting any of them face to face.

We were in silly moods. Something called The Tension Experience sometimes seems to require a Release experience as well, and I think this was what that was. We were taking pictures, posting to Facebook, laughing, making fun of the people who were after us, who we had been warned were dangerous. And in the middle of that, my cell phone rang - No Caller ID. Everyone went completely silent.

I think Lauren spoke first and said "answer it! we're all here!" I just had NOT expected my phone to ring at that moment, surrounded by these…

Immersive Adventures in Los Angeles Part 1 - THE TENSION EXPERIENCE

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Look at that. It's been an entire year since I last wrote. Oddly enough teaching kept me pretty busy this year, but now that it's summer hopefully I can have some adventures to write about.

This weekend I took a trip to Los Angeles for several reasons, all of which fall under some category of immersive or interactive theatre. I'm going to write about each of them, and if I'd started this last night I could have done it in order. Instead, I'm writing about The Tension Experience first, because I have a feeling that doing so with some urgency might serve me well.


The Tension Experience is, as far as I am able to tell at this point, an Alternate Reality Game fused with immersive & interactive theatre. Weird things happen, participants get contacted by characters via phone, live events occur, and we all meet up to discuss everything on forums. At this point I am not even sure how I heard about The Tension Experience. I think I read an article back in early April, an…