Theatre Macabre

A dense, living, breathing, masterpiece. Pray for an extension.

Experienced: October & November 2018
Location: Los Angeles, CA 90015
Price: $150
Audience Size: 10
Runtime: ~90-120 minutes
More Information: Theatre Macabre site, Instagram, Twitter

Photo by Theatre Macabre

If you told me I would throw down over a grand between me and my wife on one show I would have said you’re insane. The plan was to go once, maybe twice, enjoy ourselves, and move on with our lives. Sometimes things don’t go as expected.

Theatre Macabre has consumed us over the past few weeks. I believe it has consumed just about anyone into this art form who has had the pleasure of attending it.

This is less about the show itself and more about how it’s made us in the Los Angeles Immersive community feel. Between my wife and I there isn’t a single thing we’ve talked about more than Theatre Macabre. This is an obsession.

The show is a dense, living, breathing, masterpiece that, when firing on all cylinders, is the greatest form of entertainment I’ve ever experienced. This all sounds like hyperbole I’m sure but a two hundred million dollar movie or ride at an amusement park can’t compare to what was pulled off in October and November of 2018.

It’s a damn shame word didn’t spread like wildfire and that this show didn’t become a permanent fixture in the LA Immersive scene as was rumored. Maybe the masses weren’t ready for something like this. Or maybe the ticket price was too high. Or people were too scared to visit. Or people are just too busy with their lives to roll the dice on something completely new and refreshing. I have never strongly encouraged more people to give a show a visit than I did with Theatre Macabre and for some reason not one person I know did. It felt like the stars weren’t aligned for some strange reason.

Maybe this was just meant to be a lightning in a bottle. Something that only those who know would fully appreciate. Theatre Macabre has ruined everything else for me and for that I applaud the creators. I will forever be chasing the dragon so to speak. Thank you for making me feel like a junkie again.

Bitter at the End by E3W Productions

Highly anticipated sophomore effort from E3W is a case study of the human condition.

Run: March 15-18, March 29-April 1, 2018
Experienced: March 15, 2018
Address: Los Angeles, CA 90006
Price: $70.00
Tickets: info here
Audience Size: 7
Runtime: 60 minutes
More Information: Instagram

E3W Productions

Bitter at the End is set in a funeral parlor for 7 audience members attending Grace’s wake. It is split into chapters each with a distinct tone and style of engagement.

The first chapter is Grace’s wake and plays out like a one scene play. It’s here where we’re introduced to the family and friends of Grace and the conflicts between them. Having gone through the first wake of my adult life I recognized some of the struggles.

The scene and tone abruptly changes and we are asked to move through the space and the immersive chapters start to kick into gear. There are some nicely choreographed scenes leading us to and from seven different hut structures themed for each family member or friend. Somehow, seemingly randomly, we are placed on one of seven different tracks. I personally met with Grace’s son, husband, lover, and son again before sharing a few final scenes with the rest of the guests.

These individual glimpses into the people close to Grace contain the most exciting pieces of the show. Intimate, insightful, and gut wrenchingly sad these will likely be the scenes that affect people the most emotionally. It’s hard not to feel something when you see a son paralyzed with the simple choice of what tie his mother would want him to wear to her wake.

There is an overarching theme of each of the 7 characters in the piece representing one of the seven deadly sins but I personally didn’t follow it very closely. I think that has more to do with me and how I process what’s happening and the emotions at play vs storylines.

Another more obvious theme is how the living cope and change the narrative of an individual after death. Half truths and complete lies, innocuous as they may be, can be passed down for generations without the recently deceased around to correct it. There are several poignant moments like this throughout that gave me things to think about in my life (and eventual death) and how I will be perceived.

Overall this is an extremely heavy show and it is relentlessly depressing in tone. Everyone is pretty much speechless when the show is over and it takes awhile to process it. It’s not for everyone but I enjoyed this show and wouldn’t mind going back to try and get on another track to see how the different tracks affect the overall show. I can imagine it having a different vibe based on who you meet and interact with.

I feel the first chapter went a little long and would have enjoyed more (or longer) individual scenes instead but understand how the individual scenes were that much more impactful due to the shared first scene providing the background for all the characters.

E3W Productions is trying something new with Bitter at the End and I commend them for that. It would have been safe to try and match the structure and style of In Another Room but there are some new structures and techniques at play here. I see E3W spreading their wings here a bit and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. They are definitely a company to follow.

The Stronger by The Speakeasy Society

Immersive scene played by two actors for one audience member.

Run: February 5, 20, 2018
Experienced: February 20, 2018
Address: Los Angeles, CA 90039
Price: $20.00
Audience Size: 1
Runtime: 20 minutes
More Information: The Speakeasy Society, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to a remount of The Speakeasy Society’s The Stronger. It is based on an 1889 play by August Stindberg and is a short 20 minute scene for one audience member with two actors.

I am waiting for my friend at a restaurant. When she walks in she greets me and we look for a place to sit. She notices someone she recognizes from her past and asks if it’s ok that she say hello. She does and the scene begins.

The Stronger launches into a wonderfully acted monologue where my friend reminisces about the times her and her friend had back in New York when they were roommates. The friend reacts mostly through non-verbal cues. As the story progresses what we perceive as “The Stronger” in this story changes dramatically. There is a slow burn before a realization that likely hits people at different times. I had a rush of emotion hit me when it did and it made the drive out for a short 20 minute piece completely worthwhile.

The setting is feels very much like a casual conversation but I quickly got that this was more of a scripted monologue so I mostly stayed out of the way and let the scene unfold. I’m interested in how much the flow or enjoyment of the show could be affected by someone who tried to converse.

Both actresses played their role so masterfully I was shocked to hear from others afterward that the roles appeared to be alternated per show. From the sound of it I may have seen The Stronger of the role configurations which may have affected how much I enjoyed this piece. It was interesting to see a more traditional, albeit modernized, piece from The Speakeasy Society. They have quite the range!

CARNE y ARENA by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Moving VR installation at LACMA exploring the human condition.

Run: July 2, 2017-July 1, 2018
Experienced: February 11, 2018
Location: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Address: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90036
Price: $50
Tickets: info here
Audience Size: 1 (every 15 minutes)
Runtime: ~45 minutes (7 minute VR experience)
More Information: LACMA’s CARNE y ARENA Page

CARNE y ARENA

I came into Alejandro González Iñárritu’s CARNE y ARENA (Virtually present, Physically invisible) not knowing much other than it was a VR installation at a museum. The overarching theme is about immigrants crossing the US Border from Mexico. For me the pieces of art preceding and following the actual VR experience had more impact on me but that doesn’t detract from the experience itself in any way. The VR serves its purpose perfectly and puts you in an emotional mindset not quite possible in any other medium. Because of it I was ready to receive the background stories of the individuals who helped shape the piece in the final (non VR) room.

For me this was the perfect use of VR just short of actually going through a traditional immersive theater experience. The technology used here is similar to that of The VOID’s Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire with the exception of being tethered to a cable hanging from the middle of the room. As such there are two docents following you around as you experience the VR portion to make sure you don’t trip over the cable or run into a wall. I was a little self conscious knowing there were people beside me throughout and at times I could hear them talking to each other pulling me out of the moment.

As with some great immersive theater pieces I would love to do this again because in retrospect I felt I “did it wrong” by not moving very much throughout the experience. I was too entranced in the scene unfolding to want to move too much.

Los Angeles is a perfect home for this exhibit let’s hope it stays here past July 2018 because more people need to experience this.

Wild Party by The Speakeasy Society

Large scale event made for traditional theater audiences as well as fans of immersive theater.

Run: February 3, 2018 (2 shows)
Experienced: February 3, 2018
Location: Masonic Lodge
Address: 926 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Price: $150.00 (up to $200.00 closer to premier)
Audience Size: 100
Runtime: 90-105 minutes
More Information: Wild Party, The Speakeasy Society, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

The Speakeasy Society

The Speakeasy Society seized a great opportunity to expose immersive theater to a traditional theater audience (patrons of The Broad Stage) and completely knocked it out of the park. They produced a large scale event for 100 participants, performed twice in one night, that was both accessible to traditional theater audiences as well as satisfying to fans of the immersive theater genre.

Many of the cornerstones I love about immersive theater were present in Wild Party: multiple tracks, splitting from your party, one on ones, conversing with characters, and complex traversal through a unique venue. Some things I usually don’t see in immersive theater were also present: open bar, food, a live band, and large song and dance routines with over 20 actors.

This was quite a production and it was amazing how flawless it ran given this was essentially opening (and closing) night. There were a lot of moving parts with 10 tables of 10 guests each being escorted in and out of the main ballroom into smaller rooms throughout the venue.

Wild Party begin with being handed a card to denote the banquet table that would be your home base for the evening. The cards were passed randomly so it was almost guaranteed if you came in with someone you’d get different tables. As we walked into the ballroom we were welcomed personally by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and they encouraged us to get a drink at the bar.

Thus began the immersive experience. For 30 minutes guests trickled into the main hall getting drinks, appetizers, and desserts while mingling with actors representing various people from Hollywood’s Golden Age. This was a brilliant way to introduce us to the characters in a casually scripted setting. I got to meet a starlet past her prime, a convincing but pushy talent agent, the owner of MGM Studios, and Buster Keaton. The introduction of characters was so organic that every guest had a different vantage point and insight into the story before the show “officially” began.

When it started we all took our seats and were welcomed to the party with a shared scene in the ballroom before being split up and dispersed in our groups. In the smaller room scenes groups would combine or get split even further. As we would leave one room sometimes people would randomly be picked to go elsewhere for smaller scenes for just a couple of guests. It was all very complex, dynamic, and exciting to watch. We were escorted back to the ballroom to get more food and drink and another shared scene. We went through the cycle one more time before coming back to the ballroom for the finale.

There may be a remount of Wild Party so I won’t go too deep into the narrative but it seemed everyone enjoyed their time. The only complaint I heard is people wished the show was longer. That’s high praise for a piece running at about an hour and 45 minutes (if you showed up when doors opened). It was a fantastic night out and there were so many different tracks I can’t imagine how much time was put into the script and rehearsal.

Kudos to The Speakeasy Society for pulling off a show of this size and for introducing the joys of immersive theater to an audience of traditional theater goers.

Agnosia by Ceaseless Fun

Short, beautiful, intimate piece dealing with loss.

Run: January 18 - February 7, 2018
Experienced: January 19, 2018
Address: Lincoln Heights, CA 90248
Price: $20
Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets
Audience Size: 1
Runtime: ~25 minutes
More Information: Ceaseless Fun site, Agnosia site, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

Ceaseless Fun

Agnosia is the first of a three show thematically linked season by Ceaseless Fun dubbed “The Outline of a Human”. This is very intimate show for one participant at a time and you aren’t allowed to speak throughout the performance. I assumed this meant I would be a fly on the wall merely observing but that wasn’t the case.

There were moments where clear choices are offered to affect the scene. The mechanism was quite brilliant and something I had never seen before. Two actors both say the same thing (like asking for help) and reach out a hand. Whose hand you decide to take triggers a scene. It was intriguing enough for me to want to go again to make different choices but with a low capacity and short run I figured it would be better for someone else to experience it instead.

As with many great immersive pieces you aren’t quite sure where you fit into the narrative and your role changes as the show progresses. I started by walking up to a guy, played by Dakota Loesch, under a basketball hoop in the parking lot. Smoking a cigarette he greeted me and thanked me for coming. He started walking me to his apartment and the monologue was so natural and poetic. I felt I was really with a friend who was picking up the pieces of his life after suffering a loss.

He asked me to go inside without him and I saw a girl, played by Emily Yetter, sitting on the couch. The show explores different aspects of a couple dealing with loss. It does so with a beautifully poignant grace. Agnosia weaved in and out of realistic (helping my friend pack up his lost one’s shoes in a box) and surrealistic (a conversational dance between the living and the dead) with ease. This was a very fluid and polished production and I caught it the day after opening night I can only imagine how much better it got later in its run.

There are some very clever devices that seemed to play with the immersive theater format on a metalevel. In one moment I was told to lie down and shortly after another scene unfolded. Was I supposed to stay lying down throughout that scene? If so, for how long? I did for a bit and decided to sit up to get a better view. Could I have gotten up and gotten closer to the scene?

There was one, possibly two, false endings to the piece. The first is when you are intercepted, on your way out, by a guy (played by Scott Monahan) and you’re asked to help him find his cat. He’s wearing pajamas and flip flops and is obviously living in one of the nearby apartments. At one point he asks you to call out his cat’s name. I am pretty sure this is still part of the play and I’m not supposed to talk. Right when I’m about to call out his cat’s name he says “oh nevermind he’ll probably only respond to me,” solidifying the fact that this is, indeed, still part of the show.

The second false ending is when he leads you out to the courtyard. Since the area looked familiar enough and he’s in the hallway going back the way we came I assume that’s my cue that the show has ended and we would part ways. I hesitate, not quite sure, until he motions me to follow him. He leads me through more conversation about his lost cat and to a gate which clearly indicates the real ending. He pauses and makes an almost philosophical comment about how maybe everyone should, at one point in their life, lose a cat.

Given the context of the show this line ties the seemingly random cat search directly back to loss. We’re at the gate and he looks at me and asks if I want to push the button to open it or if he should. I let him push the button, the gate opens, and I’m back in the real world with a different outlook on life and death. What a difference 25 minutes makes.

Star Wars - Secrets of the Empire by The VOID and ILMxLab

Star Wars themed free roaming VR experience at Downtown Disney.

Run: January 5-Present
Experienced: January 14, 2018
Location: The VOID at Downtown Disney, Anaheim
Address: 1580 S. Disney Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802
Price: $29.95
Tickets: Anaheim, Glendale, Orlando, London
Audience Size: 4
Runtime: 25 minutes
More Information: The Void

The Void

I had high expectations going into Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire from the buzz surrounding it but had yet to be blown away by any upcharge VR experience. Aside from VR Showdown in Ghost Town my VR experiences had been limited to the haunted house and roller coaster variety. While this was, by far, the most sophisticated VR I had experienced I came away a little disappointed.

Some of my disappointment stemmed from some minor operational and technical difficulties. I had a 3pm ticket and saw a line of 12 to 15 people lined up out of The VOID. For some reason I had assumed that was a standby line for people without tickets. I had to get to the back of the line and it was about a 40 minute wait before I got in. Since I had purchased my tickets through a movie ticketing site I had, for some reason, assumed these shows would be starting on time with little to no wait.

You experience the show in groups of 4 and the space appeared to accommodate 2 simultaneous shows. Due to low capacity (and story reasons) there is a sense of urgency when suiting up with your equipment. Despite adjusting my headgear I couldn’t see clearly without using one hand to press the eyewear closer to my eyes. I mentioned this to the person helping our group suit up but it went unnoticed in the commotion. I went through the whole show with one hand on my headset.

As we rushed to the starting scene we passed by another team leaving the experience and I got a glimpse of the final room. It wasn’t really a spoiler but it felt like something we shouldn’t have seen quite yet. A lot of my comments so far can be chalked up to only being open to the public for 2 weeks and will hopefully get better over time.

While not perfect the technology itself was pretty fantastic compared to other VR experiences. The opening scene did a great job easing you into what’s possible when the VR and physical environments are in sync with one another. In this free roaming environment you can see virtual versions of the other 3 guests (matching their real life heights) going through the experience. You can see your own virtual legs and hands. The movements are a bit janky at times but everyone I was with was too in awe to even mention it.

Operations and technology aside I was hoping for a bit more story from the experience. There were definitely some cool effects I don’t want to spoil but the majority of the show felt like a video game with some repetitive shootout scenes. I’m thinking a lot of it was due to space constraints as the overall footprint for the show is quite small so you spend a lot of time in a couple of spaces.

Despite my lukewarm experience I will definitely be checking out whatever comes next from The VOID and ILMxLab as this seems like a perfect venue to showcase the latest in VR “hyper-reality” technology. I only see this type of experience getting better as time goes on and look forward to what they come up with next!

Anointment Finale by The Lust Experience

An exciting and unexpected treat for second timers through Anointment.

Experienced: December 17, 2017
Location: The L’Cheriyve Studio
Address: 620 W 135th St, Gardena, CA 90248
Price: $155
Audience Size: ~20
Runtime: ~120 minutes
More Information: The Lust Experience site, Noah Sinclair site, Instagram, Facebook

The Lust Experience

After hearing how risque the show had gotten since my first time through opening night I’ll admit I was a bit reluctant to go a second time. I got the same phone call other second timers had gotten to change our timeslot to the last showing of the final night. This made me even more anxious. Were they ratcheting up the intensity levels even more for us poor saps who were asking for more?

I arrived at the parking lot a bit late for the 11:30pm showtime. Morgan was there and lined us up against the wall. There were a lot of us maybe 30 or 40. He was very serious and intimidating as he spoke to us. He was asking us very tough questions making us reflect on what we had gone through our first time and why we were back. He asked if we could say we enjoyed every bit of our experience. Only a few raised their hands. He asked us what we were looking for by coming back.

Morgan told us that this, though it started that way, wasn’t a game to him anymore. He had gotten into immersive theater because it was exciting, pushed his boundaries, and he learned some things about himself in the process. He was now dealing with some very real, very heavy emotions. Some real friendships lost with others in jeopardy. He had someone (anonymously) wish upon him the same cancer that his own father had because of the Midnight Commission reveal (where he came out as the man behind the Midnight Commission to revive the BOS). The silence was deafening as we all stood there speechless.

Morgan said night after night he would see the reactions of people coming back from Anointment in various states of shock. He said one person couldn’t even text their friend he was shaking so much. He reminded us that the immoral debauchery we witnessed was what the OSDM was all about and made his case for the BOS. It was a very convincing.

Not all of the group was about to go back in some others were there for a separate BOS meeting. Morgan warned those of us going back in that he wouldn’t be able to help us this time. That the consistent chatter he had been intercepting from the OSDM communications on the previous nights were not at all the same tonight. He wasn’t sure what was going on but was sure something was up.

This was quite a build up and the frank chat with Morgan intensified any expectations going into this event. We boarded the shuttle in two groups so about 20 of us were going in. This time around there weren’t any mentions of secret handshakes or signals. We were told to line up at door in a single file line. We were told to face the building and not talk to each other. The shuttle driver and other security would just pace back and forth along the line which wrapped around the building.

We were let in one at a time about every 30-60 seconds. It began much the way the first night began though the tone was a bit more somber. There was no partying couple offering up pills or a good time. We were told to take a seat while the woman in red sang to us. After all of us piled on the couches with overflow taking a seat on the floor we were welcomed back by the same hostess I had my first night. She told us that tonight we were guests of the OSDM and that we would be able to roam the location as we wished. She encouraged us to explore all the nooks and crannies of what it has to offer.

The Lust Experience

I immediately went to the bar as I did the first night to get a drink. A drink to celebrate the bullet I dodged not having to lose all of my clothing in the welcoming scene. I started speaking to the old gentleman with a British accent as I had heard from others he had some interesting stories to tell.

The conversation I had was brilliant in that I have no clue if he was breaking the fourth wall or was completely in character. He would ask me how one would get a ticket to an event like this and if it was easy to get into. He asked me what I was looking for by coming. He was genuinely interested in the type of person who comes to this event. Was this him speaking in character or as a curious actor? He told me that he’s spent the last 4 nights hanging out and had several different stories to tell. That he would repeat these stories for all the guests coming through. Just when I thought he was talking to me as an actor he reiterated that the stories were all true before telling me several different stories, all about him being a filthy old rich man, back to back.

With that began what was quite possibly my favorite immersive experience ever. Maybe it was was the relief that this was not going to be as intense as the previous shows. Or maybe it was the chance to experience everything I wanted in as much detail as I wanted.

As the night went on we gained access to more and more of the compound presumably as the 11pm show was progressing through the last normal show of the run. This show instantly became exactly what everyone wanted out of it as the dining table became a giant game of Truth or Dare. I walked by and almost sat down but noticed a participant was somehow fully nude at this point so I passed. Those who wanted the risque debauchery of the original show found what they wanted. The rest of us looking for deeper interactions with the inhabitants of the show did just that.

Throughout all of this time the bar was open so I went back to get another drink or two and spent my time exploring.

There had been rumors on the Slack chat about “the room upstairs” (that quickly got deleted any time it was mentioned by the admin @a account) from prior nights and tonight Noah Nelson from No Proscenium was seen running down the stairs angrily yelling about how sick they were. He quickly got pulled back upstairs before storming out of the show completely.

I got to talk to Andy (confused dude) about The System Skid Row Workshop event he hosted with Sarah Sinclair and he was telling me that many people got the wrong idea. He asked me what I thought about it and I told him I enjoyed it and thought it was thought provoking. I commended him for putting on something polarizing instead of something middle of the road. We got to chat briefly about how amazing and life changing The System is.

I had a nice conversation with Sarah Sinclair about The System event as well though she seemed to be stressed out and distant. I found out that she was having concerns about Noah and how he was handling fatherhood. Noah apparently isn’t always there for their son Timmy. He’ll say he’s going to pick up Timmy from school but then flakes.

I met Tatiana who seemed confused and scared. Apparently another guest had gone through with her a few nights prior as a participant and talking tonight with the guest had her spooked. She was confused about her name and why she was even there or what she should do next. Moments like this were everywhere for anyone wanting to spend the time to explore. I ended up in a bathroom with a girl scrubbing blood on the floor. I mentioned to her that she wasn’t doing a great job cleaning the mess since she was just moving the blood around instead of wiping it up and she retorted “I don’t want to finish this, if I finish I’m not sure what they’ll do to me, I’d rather stay here”. It was an unexpectedly chilling answer.

Also had a quick chat with Joyce and I congratulated her on actually being alive. She had a good laugh when I asked “what was that all about?” and she joked that could be an alternate title or tagline for the sitcom “That’s So Joyce!”. Although she didn’t actually answer my question it was definitely nice seeing her.

I walked into what looked like a dressing room where Sabrina and a few other people were hanging out just talking. The hostess acknowledged me from meeting a few nights earlier and asked how I was doing. Maybe she knew I was a bit apprehensive going into this or maybe I was just a bit self conscious.

I walked by a room where Noah and Sarah Sinclair were having a heated discussion. Sarah pulled me into their conversation since we had spoken earlier Noah’s being sort of an absentee father. Noah rolled his eyes saying he wasn’t going to take advice from someone wearing a stupid masquerade mask. I took my mask off and had it off for the rest of the night. I tried my best to help out but Noah dropped a bomb about Sarah cheating on him. He said there are girls literally throwing their panties at him here every night and he has never cheated. I didn’t know what to say.

I may be rambling but I’m just trying to convey just how dynamic and active everything was during this finale. I was just scratching the surface of the immensely detailed world that was living and breathing before my eyes. Every inch of the compound was bursting with energy and storytelling. I wish we could have roamed for a lot longer but after over an hour we were all ushered into the final ceremony room.

We were treated to a final scene and final chance at conceiving the Anoch baby. This time Cecilia chose two people by name Stephanie and Deacon. Stephanie was screaming in terror and was even asking for Darren Bousman (the on again off again mastermind behind these experiences). Deacon and Stephanie were reluctantly getting undressed for the ceremony when Morgan and the BOS burst into the room to stop the scene. A lot of this happened quickly but ultimately the ceremony was stopped when Sabrina had an announcement for the room: she was pregnant– presumably with the Anoch baby. With that we were all left with a cliffhanger mid-season finale ending and were told to leave.

This finale was near perfection in my eyes and maybe it required the context of the first event and its structure to fully appreciate what was going on. This was an unexpected treat for those who purchased a second ticket and I’m impressed with the amount of effort put into a completely one off show. The payoff for those of us following the story and characters closely was completely unparalleled. To see characters I didn’t even know were part of Anointment (Andy, Joyce, and Sarah to name a few) ready to riff on their rich backstories was quite a surprise. I eagerly await the next chapters and am excited for the “grander, completely customized and site-specific finale” teased in the thank you email from The Creators to those of us who attended Anointment.

Anointment by The Lust Experience

Pushing the boundaries of consent, ethics, and storytelling.

Experienced: December 14, 2017
Location: The L’Cheriyve Studio
Address: 620 W 135th St, Gardena, CA 90248
Price: $155
Audience Size: 8
Runtime: ~120 minutes
More Information: The Lust Experience site, Noah Sinclair site, Instagram, Facebook

The Lust Experience

There are so many things to talk about with The Lust Experience mid-season event Anointment I’m not even sure where to start. Most of this will be a walkthrough of what I saw with some commentary after talking to others about the experience:

A week before Anointment - multiple venue rumor:

The tickets for the event we purchased were billed as a “one-of-a-kind, magnanimous and altruistic celebration of life, love and harmony”. That’s about as vague as it gets but those of us following along with the ongoing story began to hear rumors of two different events.

An actress, Stephanie, from The Tension Experience (last season’s show) confided in some friends/participants that she was sad she wasn’t asked to be in Anointment. Days later she later revealed that she was, indeed, going to be in an event but it wasn’t going to be Anointment and it was apparently in a different venue. Some started to assume the show we signed up for was a front, or diversion, for a more sinister event going on at the same time that she would be a part of.

Emails went out to participants with a waiver and instructions. One of the instructions was not to reveal our starting point to anyone until the show’s run was over. People started speculating that we’d be going to one of the two rumored events. How would they choose who goes where? How would we carpool without telling others in our group where we were going?

We were already confused and on edge before the event even started.

A week before Anointment - email from a group that intercepted our receipts for tickets to Anointment

The Midnight Commission started as a separate ARG experience and was later revealed (much to the chagrin of some in the LA immersive theater community) to be a part of The Lust Experience world. They are a group, led by Morgan, dedicated to expose the OSDM (who was putting on Anointment).

Participants were sent an email from the Midnight Commission telling us that the OSDM are liars and that we were to wear a masquerade mask. Some of us were not sure if everyone was supposed to wear a mask or only those part of the Midnight Commission.

Noah Sinclair (arguably the main character thus-far in The Lust Experience) cleared up to those of us on Slack that we should all wear masks. Noah hadn’t been confirmed as part of the Midnight Commission so the request was a bit confusing to some of us… but we’ve learned to accept confusion throughout the whole season!

Anointment - the preshow:

The morning of we all got an email of our meeting location from Timothy Granik of the OSDM. We also later got an email from the Midnight Commission telling us that the OSDM is lying to us and reiterating to wear a mask as well as wearing layers.

Approaching the location was nerve wracking for a couple of reasons: 1) I’d never been anywhere in this area for a show making it that much more suspect and 2) I was not sure if I would be the only person showing up at this location.

I felt a little at ease when I saw other cars in the parking lot but as this was opening night everyone was very quiet and to themselves. Almost as if they were afraid to talk about why they were there in this parking lot dressed up. After some awkward moments I broke the ice and asked if they were here for Anointment and we started talking.

Shortly after Morgan (from the Midnight Commission/BOS) walked into the parking lot, gathered us around, and told us that he had intercepted the shuttle driver for the event we were originally going to and that we would be going to something else. He gave us some hand signals and secret handshakes that the OSDM used amongst themselves to identify each other. We were to infiltrate this event and be on the lookout for anything unusual and report back to him.

We boarded the shuttle and were not quite sure if we were allowed to talk or not. The whole vibe was one of anticipation and intrigue. None of us knew quite what we were getting ourselves into and it was almost as if we didn’t want to acknowledge it.

Anointment - lounge:

The shuttle drops us off and we are patted down and have to perform one of the hand signals or secret handshakes before lining up to go inside. We were lined up in a single file line and let in one at a time every couple of minutes. The wait to go inside is anxiety inducing.

Once inside I am told to sit on one of the couches near the stage. On the way up a few stairs I’m greeted by a couple asking me if I’m looking to have a good time. They hand me a pill when I nod. Not wanting to break my cover I pop the pill in my mouth.

I see a woman in red on the stage singing. I swear it’s Sabrina (Addison from The Tension Experience) but as I get closer I realize it’s not. After all of us are seated a woman who would be our hostess through most of the evening gave us some ground rules. We were told we could leave whenever we wanted. She tells us that we weren’t chosen to be here for our looks or our brains. She asks one of us to stand up in front and tells her to take the top of her dress off. She is reluctant but after pressing the issue she complies. She’s visibly angry and quickly pulls her dress back up. This definitely sets the tone and puts all of us on edge from here on out.

As we leave the area we were instructed to leave one piece of clothing behind so we could feel like a different person. I heard on other nights a lot more than one piece of clothing had to be left behind in this first scene but I got away with leaving my suit jacket.

We are told to have a drink at the bar and mingle. As we turn around to leave we see about a dozen people hanging out in the lounge just staring at us. It was quite an intimidating scene and I wasn’t sure where to go or who to approach. There were several men and women in masks fully nude just hanging out. I picked up a drink from the bar and people started approaching me.

I was trying to talk to some of the familiar characters from the story so far but kept getting pulled away. One girl wanted to dance and as we did she asked me why she hasn’t ever seen me around. I told her I was new. Trying to fit in was definitely on my mind but I wasn’t doing a great job of it. Mason commented to me that I looked lost. Sabrina recognized me from Ascension and preempted my line of questioning by telling me flat out that she didn’t want or need to be saved and she was perfectly fine there.

The Lust Experience

Anointment - dining/desires room:

Our hostess rang a bell and gathered our group around to enter the next room. We were told to sit at a dinner table and to choose carefully where we sat. What followed was an interesting and awkward game of pairing up, revealing secrets, staring into the eyes of a “partner”, swapping partners, feeding a strawberry, and deciding what item of clothing the other should remove.

At one point I was told to stand up and the hostess brought over a handler named Skye. As I was told to look into Skye’s eyes the hostess made her strip off her clothes and face the rest of the table to moan. After she was told to get dressed she ran off to another room.

I was quickly pulled into the room by a man going by Deacon while Skye was getting dressed. He started yelling at me and took me a moment to realize why. He accused me of looking at his girlfriend inappropriately when she was standing in front of me undressed. Skye quickly tried to calm him down reminding him if “they” find out about their fling that bad things would happen. Deacon calmed down a bit and confided in me that he was on edge tonight because he hadn’t heard from his brother the whole night. His brother was apparently the shuttle driver that Morgan had intercepted to smuggle us into this event. I kept my mouth shut about that.

As I was pulled back into the dining room area it seemed like several had moved on to something else while others were blindfolded. I was given a blindfold as well and we were asked questions about desire and lust in an introspective scene. We had to reveal one desire to the group and, although we didn’t know it, this was presumably used as input into who was ultimately going to be anointed.

From here I was asked to sit on a chair with another individual and we were told about a device used to take readings of locations and she described the readings for where we were at as being just normal. It was unclear what the readings were actually for. We were then led into a hallway passing by what sounded like a running shower and some other rooms that were buzzing with activity.

Anointment - Rico room:

We walked into a room that looked like an entertainment room where Rico greeted us and proceeded to do a line of coke. This set the tone immediately for what people ended up calling the “Rico Room”. Most, if not all, of the guys who were not chosen to be anointed ended up hanging out in this room for a bit. He plays a drinking game with shots and very badly wanted us to get naked and masturbate together. He talked a bit about being a clockmaker and asked a male handler for some elephant penis. The handler comes in later with a huge cooked sausage looking thing. Rico asked me to try it, I did, and it was delicious. He then asked us to come up with something, anything, to order because they could procure anything we desired. We came up with something disgusting because Rico seemed to want that.

At one point Rico put his back to the camera that was obviously filming the room we were in and told us that they were watching everything. He seemed to be trying to warn us of something but because of the drugs and alcohol the details are a blur. He then made us watch some 70s porn on his TV before he tried one last time to get us all to take off our pants. Frustrated with us he got naked faster than I thought possible and stormed out of the room leaving his clothes on the couch.

The Lust Experience

Anointment - ceremony room:

Our hostess came by asking where Rico went and we said he ran off. She seemed perplexed and almost reluctantly led us through the hallway and into a large room with a bed. A man and a woman were in the bed nude under the covers and were told to leave. We were told to hang out for a bit before the ceremony began.

Me and another girl were immediately led to a room (while others were led elsewhere) that appeared to be some sort of dungeon or torture room. A woman described to us what the room was used for as she acted out the process on us. She said that the ultimate high can be obtained by injecting yourself with the blood of someone dying while simultaneously aroused and terrified. She blindfolded me, attached my wrists to the chains hanging on the wall, and proceeded to simulate slicing my neck open. She then captured the blood from my neck and walked over to the girl sitting on the bed. She was then injected with my blood.

After this scene was over we were led back into the main ceremony room and I noticed Stephanie. The same Stephanie that was happy to be included in the second, alternate show, further solidifying to those of us in the know that we were not at the original show we intended to go to. She told me a story about a kid in a park about to be kidnapped asked the questions ‘would you want to watch a movie? or would you like to play with legos?’ She mentioned that this was a false choice since both options were bad for the kid. She asked if I thought life was sometimes like that filled with false choices. She then said she felt tired and laid down on the sad mattress we were on sitting in the back of the room. There was another mattress similar nearby presumably for another girl. There was something unsettling about the dirty mattresses, without any linens on them, lying on the ground. It gave me the impression that these girls were here living against their will in squalor. Stephanie’s manic, confused, and paranoid behavior didn’t help.

Anointment - anointment ceremony:

We were gathered around the main bed near the entrance to the room. A woman dressed in red, whom some of us assumed was Noah’s mother Cecilia, was leading the ceremony with another man some of us recognized as Tom Barrow (who posed as Addison’s father throughout The Tension Experience) and later revealed to be Timothy Granik.

The anointment ritual we are about to witness was pretty twisted. Two people from our group, a man and a woman, were chosen and taken down a completely unique path than the rest of us, and from each other, to prepare for the ceremony. They were traveling through various rooms getting dolled up (or dolled down depending on how you look at it) so they would be ready for what happens next.

The man and woman are brought into the ceremony room and taken to the bed. They were dressed in loincloths (and in other ceremonies sometimes completely nude) and were told to lay down next to each other. Cecilia and Timothy began what was easily the most awkward, humorous, humiliating, and non sensual portion of the night. They were basically telling the two to have sex in front of all of us in hopes of conceiving the OSDM god Anoch. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it.

The performance anxiety was real for the two on the bed as the rest of us just watched in horror. Timothy asked incredulously ‘how come he’s not hard yet??’ and just as he was about to get one of us onlookers to help the guy out with that Noah Sinclair came bursting into the scene.

Noah got up on the bed and was disgusted with us, his mom, and with what was going on. He gave us a speech about how two complete strangers having sex in the name of Anoch was not right. He implied that we all leave and that a conception based on love was the only way to godliness.

Anointment - awkward cool down period:

We were led into a small room with a bucket of all of our clothes on the ground where we were told to get dressed. Here we all compared notes while awkwardly getting dressed. We were then escorted back to our cars by a man in a suit. Walking back we realized just how close we were to where we parked despite the confusing path we took in the shuttle to the venue.

Consent

Those going through the event were told that we were being smuggled in (so to speak) so we had to fit in and do what we were told. Anyone not complying would likely blow their cover and get ejected (or worse). This coupled with many guests not given an actual safeword to use throughout the experience compounds the blurred lines of consent.

Most everyone I heard were at least told that they could leave as they pleased and I understand bringing an explicit safeword into the mix may not fit the story perfectly if this wasn’t supposed to be a “public event” in the first place so I get why a safeword wasn’t stated.

All of this would be a moot point if this show didn’t have salacious situations in spades.

Ethics & Morality

Some were asked to take a good portion of their clothes off. Others were asked to call a random person from their call history to reveal a sexual desire or secret. A few were occasionally asked to kiss complete strangers (other participants). It’s hard to tell how many people felt obligated to do things out of fear of getting kicked out but some seasoned vets definitely stood their ground at times and were not kicked out or forced to do anything they didn’t feel comfortable with.

There was definitely a lot to discuss here with other participants and some boundaries were pushed and exceeded. I am sure every single person that went through Anointment has something to say about the lines crossed.

Differing intensity levels

For the most part the night I went was relatively tame as it sounds like many (if not all) participants for the remaining nights were asked to undress beyond a usual level of comfort amongst strangers.

When I went shoes were an acceptable piece of clothing to discard whereas other nights shoes, ties, and undershirts didn’t count. The two people chosen to be anointed were many times asked to undress completely and complete the show in the buff. Those in the nude were frequently interacting with other participants throughout the show. I highly doubt many expected that type of intimacy with other participants.

Expectations for new participants

I find it interesting that this show was so unlike all of the events leading up to it. They successfully lived up to the expectations of what people think of when you say you’re going to “The Lust Experience” but for some reason the content (mostly participant nudity) came as a shock to me. There was little to no sexual content in the shows and storylines leading up to Anointment. I’m extremely curious about the direction this heads as there may be some new attendees who are expecting the next show to go even further. I’m thinking there’s not much further it can go right??

Experience for those closely following the story

It felt like the show was built mostly for onboarding new participants as there wasn’t a lot in the path I was on that furthered the ongoing story. I believe one person per show got a one on one with Noah while the rest of us only saw him briefly in the finale. Depending on which host/hostess you got you may not have seen Sabrina or Mason (I was fortunate to see both briefly in the lounge).

The Lust Experience

Wrap Up

The Powers That Be/Creators have delivered yet another thought provoking, boundary pushing, controversial experience. Taken by itself as a stand alone experience I can’t say I necessarily loved it but I don’t think I’ve talked so much about a show ever. There were so many different experiences to be had that it’s impossible to judge it or know all that went on in there without talking to hundreds of people. The attention to detail and variation is staggering especially for a show that only ran for 4 nights.

I also had a wonderful opportunity to see the show it in a completely different light my second time through read about it here.

The Kansas Collection (Chapter Four - The Invitation) by The Speakeasy Society

Remount tickets here! Reporting for duty for the Scarecrow’s special task force.

Experienced: September 14, 2017
Address: Los Angeles, 90039
Price: $20
Tickets: Remount tickets for each chapter here
Audience Size: 2
Runtime: ~20 minutes
More Information: Kansas Collection, The Speakeasy Society, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Chapter 4, The Invitation, of the Kansas Collection was a return to their roots reminiscent of Chapter 1 in more ways than one. First it took place in the original location (after the debut at IndieCade). Second it starts with two guests being greeted by the character Lyman followed by sitting down to chat with Jo Files (with signature steampunk aviator glasses) behind a typewriter.

The rest of the show was different than Chapter 1 in that both of us guests were brought into one large area behind Jo Files and each interacted with a different individual separately in the same space. These two characters were hard at work sealing envelopes contain invitations to an event. They asked us to help out for a bit before taking us aside to speak in private. Both were very animated and engaging though I only got to speak to one in private.

The show was fun, albeit short like all of the chapters in The Kansas collection, and felt like a reboot of sorts resetting some of the playing field while reminding us the current lay of the land in Oz. I am looking forward to what comes next after The Invitation as it sounds like it might be grand!