Monday, August 13, 2012

My STRATA Experience

A riddle:

Three friends go to a show on different nights. The first and second see one scene that is the same but aside from that their nights are radically different. The second and third see one scene that is the same but aside from that their nights are also radically different. The first and third see nothing that is the same but their experiences are similar and they leave feeling the same. What show did they see?

An answer:

STRATA. An immersive adventure staged by Bricolage Production Company alongside a sea of collaborators and supporters.

Aside from being the title of the performance STRATA stands for Strategic Training Research and Testing Agency. The agency is dedicated to pro-corrective treatment to obtain clearer, brighter, happier living. Your scheduled refitnessing appointment with the agency is the performance.

"STRATA is probably the most ambitious theatre event in local history," says City Paper. And I think most would agree. By design, STRATA challenges the boundaries of conventional theatre and questions what it means to be an audience member.

On July 19th, I previously posted about how the performance had already begun even though the production didn't technically open until August first. Shortly after that, a subversive twitter personality (@LIESpittsburgh), presumably maintained by the production members, responded to the blog and is constantly tweeting to others who are posting about STRATA. I soon found out that there were other twitter entities such as (@strataPITT and @STRATAsavedME) who are all tweeting at patrons and interested parties about the experience of iCounsciousness, refittnessing, the search for perfection and the STRATA experience as a whole.

When I showed up at the secret location that I can not reveal (my safety and their anonymity are level works partners!) I was excited and curious. Curious as to what all of this preliminary work was for. What's the need to set up this conflict via twitter? What was the preliminary survey about? And how do they plan on selling me on this whole idea of iConsciousness? (which I left the play still not understanding).

There's a number of ways you could go about describing the event`but ultimately everyone's experience is going to be different. Personally I went in starving for information, which I was not always given.

An email I received from Bricolage read, "Through a series of captivating installations and encounters you will travel through a meticulously designed space that will awaken your sense and rock your world." Hmmm. The space was definitely considered and served the performance perfectly. But I felt as an audience member, I was not meticulously taken care of.

After each installation an actor gives you a laminated card with a number on it. That number is the room you are to enter next. The choices you make are supposed to guide your experience and therefore the actor is the judge and most likely trained to be so. In an interview with CBS, one of the directors explains that your path and experience are based off of your responses to the prompts or tests given to you along the way.

There are no lead characters, reoccurring images, or overarching themes as in a conventional performance. You play the starring role and the world they have created exists around you. It's an interesting world of questions and improvisation where your path is dictated by your participation and by chance.

In the previously mentioned interview Bricolage company members proclaim that they want to blur the boundary of audience members and artist and are very interested in the relationship between the two. STRATA definitely does that by transforming the audience from passive observers to active participants who determine the logic of the performance.

Bricolage describes STRATA as a "private rite of passage where the choices you make will determine your destiny -- and reveal your past." It definitely demands that you bring your past with you and interestingly has throws that in our face sometimes but I'm trying not give too much away since I respect their anonymity and the play is still running until September first.

One thing I will say is that there were some beautiful pearls in STRATA -- some really great moments I had as an audience member that were new and exciting. However, I found no string. Nothing to tie all of these beautiful moments together, I obviously wove one for myself internally but I still left wanting more. Not wanting more in the sense of "I NEED TO SEE IT AGAIN!", although there was a bit of that and they offer a discount for those who return, but more of an "I didn't get enough" sensation.

I don't think anyone should ever question how hungry and audience member is for information.

The installation runs until September first and tickets can be purchased here. If you do attend please feel free to post about your refittnessing here or respond in the comment section below.

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