E(levator), Students and Friends by ABC Project

Ambitious work with three overlapping experiences.

Run: August 29-September 5, 2017
Experienced: August 29, 2017
Location: 939 Studio
Address: 939 Maple Ave, Los Angeles CA, 90015
Price: Students - $43.75, Friends - $43.75, E(levator) - $65
Audience Size: Students - 12, Friends - 4, E(levator) - 2
Runtime: Students - 45 minutes, Friends - 35 minutes, E(levator) - 55 minutes
More Information: ABC Project Site, ABC Project on Facebook, Annie Lesser on Twitter, Annie Lesser on Instagram

ABC Project

This is an ambitious and experimental work, literally days after D(istillery), that consists of three different pieces named E(levator), Students, and Friends. The three shows all overlap each other slightly and were performed 3 times a night each. The unusual logistics for these three shows include a different starting location, starting time, audience size, and show length. Hardcore Annie Lesser fans tried to get a ticket to experience all three shows in the same night but only 6 people per night could actually do that since E(levator) had an audience size of 2.

Here’s a breakdown of the different shows starting from the largest audience size to smallest:

Students: A group of 12 students are meeting up for some extra credit. The teacher explains that the group we are about to see are showcasing their artwork as part of their art-therapy sessions. Our job is to be respectful, tour the gallery, and converse with the patients about their art. We had to make sure to not have any belts, shoelaces, or sharp objects on our person before entering the gallery.

Inside there we are free to converse with the artists about their work as we try and figure out why they are in therapy based on our interaction. I don’t have much psychology knowledge or experience but it was entertaining having free-form conversations with interesting people about the art. Each individual had a distinct personality, warts and all, and there was a good amount of time to spend as little or as much time as you wanted with each of them.

At one point a verbal argument between the artists breaks out and some character flaws are revealed in the heat of the moment. Things start to get a little chaotic and one individual is forcibly ejected from the gallery and we are told we should leave as well.

Students was engaging and very organic. The structure forced us to be active participants to extract as much as we can from the stories and lives of each character. It’s hard to tell how much of this show is improvised, seemingly much of it, but there was definitely a lot of backstory for each character that came through.

Friends: A letter from a friend asks to meet up to say goodbye before he gets the help he needs. 4 of us meet at the meeting point. It might be easy to mistaken another participant for the friend in need but some of us knew each other already. The show starts when a guy and a girl start approaching us. They appear to be in a relationship and are in a heated discussion. The guy stops and greets us individually and thanks us for coming. The girl he is with just ignores us. It’s obvious she is not happy about his decision.

As we start walking along the street with the couple there are some hints that things are not what they seem. There are some subtle implications about our role in the relationship between these two and as the show progresses a few revelations are made by the audience at different times. The slow burn of the situation is intriguing and works perfectly. The end I experienced was a bit lackluster and ambiguous but otherwise this was a fun show.

Elevator: Two audience members are to report for work to be an orderly at the Maple Institute. This one, as you might guess, takes place mostly in an elevator. The service elevator at Think Tank Gallery has been used in other immersive theater pieces (I have fond memories of my first Alone Experience starting in this elevator) but was never used as the centerpiece for a show.

This show revolves around two participants being trained by an orderly to intake patients into the institute. He gives us a clipboard with some questions to ask to help assess the patient’s mental state of mind. The interaction here was very natural and occasionally our trainer would take over to ask some questions. It becomes apparent, as time goes on, at least one of the patient’s psychological maladies.

Overlap: The overlap between the shows is interesting and probably confusing if you didn’t experience all shows.

Students overlapped with Friends toward the end of Friends when the Professor of the students leaves to make a phone call. She steps outside and the friends interact with her for a bit. Students overlapped with Elevator when the orderlies in training welcome the students into the gallery at the beginning of Students. It also overlaps with Elevator when the orderlies come in to try and deal with a commotion that occurs in the gallery. Elevator overlapped with Friends with the patient being taken into the institute. He starts as one of the characters in Friends and ends up as one of the characters in Elevator.

Thoughts: Overall I enjoyed my time through the three different shows but the cost to see them was steep. E(levator), Students and Friends would probably have benefitted from a discounted price to experience all shows. Also the varying show sizes made it awkward and hard to see more than one in the same night. This felt like an interesting experiment and I’m glad Annie Lesser continues to think outside of the box.

The Sudden Loneliness Gift - Therapy and dreams. by Nocturnal Fandango

First fully realized experience kicks Nocturnal Fandango’s sophomore season into high gear.

Run: August 25-27, 2017
Experienced: August 27, 2017
Location: Undisclosed
Address: Echo Park, CA
Price: $100.00
Audience Size: 1
Runtime: 80 minutes
More Information: Sudden Loneliness Gift, Instagram

The first fully realized experience for The Sudden Loneliness Gift did not disappoint. I went through last year’s Therapy and Dreams as well as Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow and I can safely say I enjoyed this show more than anything I’ve seen yet from Nocturnal Fandango.

The format of the show was similar to the first Therapy and Dreams and is my favorite kind of immersive: one which you go through and experience alone. It was a non-stop tour de force of emotion: introspective, surreal, whimsical, confusing, scary, sad, and serene to name a few. What they accomplished in the space with multiple shows going on simultaneously is to be commended. The logistics of starting someone every 20 minutes was mostly flawless as I only noticed another participant traversing the compound when I realized where I was in relation to a prior scene I had been through.

There is so much that happens throughout this 80 minute journey I decided to lay it out in a pseudo stream of consciousness bullet point form below. Note this is mostly to try and convey the sheer scope of everything that happened:

  • Meadowlark
    • Keilani, sit on a stool, drink hibiscus tea in chosen cup, eat raspberry, almond, nut, mint
    • Taken to porch, Meadowlark discusses the process of his new age therapy, does a breathing exercise
    • Asked to think about something that has been worrying me
    • Go to campfire, write and talk about the worry, drop the paper in the fire to symbolize the problem going away
    • Sit on side porch to pour water on my feet (he told a story about a female shinto priest who blessed the water)
    • Go inside sit on couch in living room, look at origami animals
    • Talk about spirit animal and element (wind)
    • Breathing exercise to prepare to open dream eye (as he hovers his hand in front of my forehead to help)
    • Walk to bed, lay down, sleep
  • Chelsea/Luna Corp
    • Chelsea walks in and says ‘get up you don’t want to be late for your first day at your new job’
    • Says come and get breakfast
    • I sit at the counter as she’s cooking an egg that’s blood red
    • Asks if i want any water or OJ, said ok to OJ and she got it from the fridge to pour greenish milky substance from the OJ container
    • Talks about her dilemma re: rent to own camera equipment but afraid it might trigger some of the old theater memories with Jason and he’s still trying to get over the loss of Kevin a year later
    • She says she wishes I would tell her about the clients I talk to (at my job) but she understands I sign like 10 NDAs a day (thought I was Kevin for this moment in this dream)
    • Asked if I saw the video yet (for the job) and I said no, she shows it to me on a laptop with a binder and sunglasses
    • Video (narrated by Ernestine?) talks about Luna Corporation welcoming us generically regardless of the job, they are all important.
    • Told in video to put on the sunglasses and to look at my binder
    • Binder says I’m in Facilities Management
    • Chelsea starts to choke, falls to the ground, I try to grab her but right when she falls Red comes in
      Nocturnal Fandango
  • Red
    • Red takes me to a bathroom bathed in a red glow
    • He is super positive and enthusiastic, thanks me for helping him relax, asks if I ever relax
    • When I say not really he asks if I want to do what he does to relax.. Clean his pores. I say sure. He puts a pore strip on my nose.
    • He asks if I want to see something. I say sure. He opens up the shower curtain to reveal multiple bird nests and different sized eggs.
    • He talks about how these are his babies and he doesn’t want to let them go but he will have to someday.
    • Hands me a tiny egg saying he remembers when I was an egg just like that one and now look at me.
    • Says he thinks I am ready for something new but it won’t be easy. Asks if I’m ready. I say yes.
    • We walk through a door past the side porch and he tells me to follow the torches toward the light
  • Jason
    • Walk to a shed, two masked characters, one only grunts, the other is Bossman (played by Jason)
    • They set me on the table, blindfold me, and lift my shirt
    • Start to act like they are operating on me
    • Jason repeatedly mentions the hairball in his helpers throat, making fun of him for constantly grunting.
    • Bossman asks if I remember a childhood story (when things were truly innocent) from before I became an ugly grown up
    • At some point Jason breaks character as he says their safe word (Alamo) because the other guy (Jesse, Jason’s student) has a real screwdriver and he’s concerned for my safety
    • He is saying he’s going to call Kevin to take over for this guy since there are 5 more people to go through tonight and he’s getting tired (doesn’t want to deal with Jesse anymore)
    • Kevin’s voicemail keeps coming up he tries again
    • Guy tells Jason that Kevin is dead, has been dead
    • Jason says ‘you saw him at the dinner party right?’ I clarify which dinner party he mentions Thai food and I say no.. Jason is confused, incredulous
    • The two of them freeze when a girl comes into the shed and leads me away
      Nocturnal Fandango
  • Fox
    • Girl with tape on her mouth (Fox Baby) leads me to a bed that appears fire damaged.
    • Lays me down and just looks at me caressing my hair
    • A man in a face mask comes (Orange) and grabs my hair and speaks French (?) and I say ‘no’ as he repeated a phrase to me
    • He talks about what I’ve done, asks why I don’t help The Fox out
    • The two of them dance and send me back to the bed a couple of times
    • I am helpless as Orange aggressively dances with Fox Baby
    • I am then led to a tent
  • Kevin
    • Kevin is in the tent with lots of pages of books taped everywhere
    • He talks about how he’s been dead for awhile but just lives the same day over and over where he is laid down to rest and then ends up in the tent to read or write
    • Asks if I got his postcard (I did)
    • Tells me to tell Jason that he loves him, I tell him Jason thinks he’s still alive and if I said that it might hurt his grieving process
    • Kevin takes me to the spot where he lays down every night
    • We both lay down in a grave like wooden box with feathers underneath
    • A character from Jake is reading a kid’s poem (forgot, little boy blue?) while throwing feathers on us
    • Kevin seemingly dies and I am led out by (guy from water/fire I hadn’t met before)
  • End
    • Paul pulls me out and as we walk past the threshold of the compound he seems to snap out of it and says ‘you’ve been sleepwalking or something back there are you ok?!’
    • Distinct end of dream after leaving compound
    • He tells me about his dream where he was a crocodile that helped people cross a river
    • I told him about my dreams
    • He asked if I was ok
    • Gave me a gift box said he was told to make it and give it to me
    • Keilani walks me out asks if I’m ok as well
  • Questions I have
    • Is Chelsea my wife in the dream? Or am I Kevin and she’s playing Jason?
    • What did putting on the sunglasses signify when watching the video?
    • Why is Red pulling me out of the scene with Chelsea with such conviction?
    • Who is Red anyway?
    • Who are the dancers?
    • Why was there tape on the female dancer’s mouth?
    • Why did I get tape on my mouth?
    • Is Kevin in purgatory?

In Another Room by E3W Productions

A beautiful production from beginning to end and an amazing way for E3W Productions to burst onto the immersive scene.

Experienced: August 26, 2017
Location: Undisclosed
Address: Los Angeles, CA
Price: $60.00
Audience Size: 3
Runtime: 75 minutes
More Information: Instagram

E3W Productions

In Another Room came onto the scene, as many do these days, with an Instagram account. Their account initially focused on case files of “Official Record of Reported Incidents”. At that time no one knew if this was an ARG or a show but the imagery was intriguing. Looking back at their timeline it was brilliantly orchestrated, with at least one photo per day for almost a month, starting on June 13 all the way until tickets went on sale July 10th. After selling out a few days later their Instagram went dark for almost another full month before starting up again the week of their show’s debut.

Based on the videos (and “Paranormal Volunteer” moniker on the ticket) leading up to opening night one would expect the show to be full of ghost hunting through darkened rooms with atmospheric hints of apparitions with randomly closing doors, creaks, wind, sounds, and the like. I was expecting something similar to Knott’s Scary Farm’s Visions “Skeleton Key” room from last year which used an iPad’s camera to augment reality with ghosts that could only be seen on the tablet’s screen.

The show starts out with three audience members checking in at a desk on the porch of a home. We have our picture taken one at a time so the E3W Paranormal Investigation team can make sure we aren’t bringing any negative EMF type auras that would affect the investigation. In the meantime we were to speak to the current owner of the house around the corner of the home.

Michelle looks distraught and starts to tell us about the home. About how she wants nothing to do with it but can’t sell it, how strange things have and continue to happen here, how she has moved far away from here and only came back because E3W was paying her, how she doesn’t know what we’re looking for but hopes we find it here. She mentions renting it out to someone named Wendy Morrow, an investigator investigating the numerous deaths at the house, for only a month or two before she ended up dead. Her intensity and genuine concern literally sent chills down my spine.

She walks us into the home and up a dark staircase giving us some more backstory of the home and her time there. We slowly make our way up and she abruptly tells us that this is as far she’ll go with us and wishes us luck. She tells us to keep walking up the stairs and knock on the door, wishes us luck, and leaves us alone. I’m getting chills just thinking about it. The scene was set so perfectly and it was up to us to muster the courage to continue up those stairs.

After walking up the creaky steps and knocking on the door it abruptly opens up and we are welcomed into an odd, unsettling, tiny room with photos and case files strewn on all walls and even the ceiling if I remember correctly. I noticed the nameplate on the desk as “Wendy Morrow” and immediately knew we were being greeted by a dead woman, the investigator mentioned in the opening act. She frantically tells us about random deaths and causes of deaths occurring in this home.

E3W Productions

This room, or hallway, acts as a centralized hub for the home. It also serves as the hub for the show with 6 doors surrounding it. The majority of the show takes place in the various rooms of the home. Each room represents a different scene, depicting the lives and deaths, of the people Wendy Morrow told us about. The show takes us through different time periods and we are occasionally split up into even smaller groups of 1 or 2 to witness different scenes.

Needless to say this show was excellent. It very much felt like being a part of a full blown horror movie and with only 3 of us in the home the whole time it was extremely intimate. The audience to actor ratio is insane (about 10 actors and 3 audience members) not to mention the people behind the scenes working the music, lights, and set changes (some rooms like the hallway looked completely different when going through them various times). The amount of effort put into the script, set design, and Instagram is all top notch. After going to so many haunts and immersive theater events I rarely get scared but can say there were several times I was scared, startled, or just plain creeped out.

This was a beautiful production from beginning to end and an amazing way for E3W Productions to burst onto the immersive scene. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.

D(istillery) by ABC Project

A short, powerful piece about the human condition as told through metaphors of the distillation process.

Experienced: August 26, 2017
Location: Stark Spirits
Address: 1260 Lincoln Ave #1100, Pasadena, CA 91103
Price: $20.00
Audience Size: 6
Runtime: 25 minutes
More Information: ABC Project Site, ABC Project on Facebook, Annie Lesser on Twitter, Annie Lesser on Instagram

Never has a piece of theater hit me emotionally so quickly than D(istillery). I was either feeling unusually empathetic that night or it was the brilliant writing and acting. I’m banking on the latter. Annie Lesser’s ABC Project is still in its infancy stages with the letter D but, to date, each piece has had a completely different setting and unique tone.

D(istillery) is a short, powerful piece about the human condition as told through metaphors of the spirit distillation process. The simple version of how the show operates is a tour of the Stark Spirits distillery interspersed with the inner thoughts, conflicts, dreams, aspirations, and heartache of one (or many) people. How it actually plays out, and is revealed, is near impossible to describe as it will affect everyone differently.

The show takes place in a small area of the distillery and we are given some ground rules reiterating that the six of us in the audience are not to reply or talk to the actors. This works out for the best because there are some answers to questions that could possibly derail the beautiful flow of what Annie Lesser has laid out.

The show starts with us roaming in the distillery with music being played. At first I thought it was from a radio but as I looked around I realized it was being played live by a musician sitting at an electronic keyboard. A dynamic soundtrack accompanies the performance matching the pacing and tone throughout perfectly.

A girl comes out of the office door to greet us. She starts to tell us the origin of this distillery and it’s implied that this is her baby, her labor of love, but she is a bit apprehensive. It’s almost as if things aren’t going as well as she had hoped. Another girl comes out of the office and continues the monologue while offering a more personal side to the story. It immediately strikes me as two different voices for the same person. One voice of the outward persona attempting to hide the insecurities. The other voice is the private, inner thoughts, revealing the truth– not often told to strangers or even friends.

The show continues and a third person comes out and the three of them continue the tour. They speak of the distillation process slipping into life’s moments ranging from childhood memories of the stifling love of a mother to the rejection of a love lost.

I interpreted the show as starting with one particular person’s life (the owner of the distillery) and ending with many different lives as unique as each barrel described in the aging process.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tone, emotion, and delivery of the material and wouldn’t hesitate to check this one out again if I ever get the chance. It’s a relatively short piece but I can’t imagine anything else matching the unique setting so perfectly.

Remembrance Day by the Order of Bileth

Enjoyably unique show with a dense narrative and an unconventional structure.

Experienced: August 24, 2017
Location: Undisclosed
Address: Los Angeles, CA 90015
Price: $60 ($50 with Midsummer Scream presale)
Audience Size: 20
Runtime: 120 minutes
More Information: Order of Bileth Site, Instagram, Twitter

The group of us waited, as instructed, by the alleyway before Jeremy came out and called our names. We were told to line up in the order called before being escorted into the venue. We walked up a flight of stairs and through a couple of rooms before entering a lounge where a group of people were waiting for us.

Steven Lundy, 1st Leading Knight of the Order of Bileth, welcomed us all to Remembrance Day. This was described as a night of celebration and one where we would “see for yourself the fruits of your labor.” We were given the chance to mingle with each other as well as with the members who were already present before we arrived. We were offered (paraphrased): fruit cut into pleasant shapes, water with and without bubbles (also with and without sugar), sweets, and snacks.

The first, and longest, portion of Remembrance Day was structured as a casual meet and greet with about 6 characters scattered throughout the lounge area. We could decide to approach any of these members in any order we wanted. We could have spent the whole time with one or try to talk to all of them. This wasn’t explicitly stated as such but soon became obvious as they started to engage with us.

During this time I learned a lot about the inner workings of the Order of Bileth. Through the various interactions with the members I learned the history, motivation, and sometimes drama between some of the characters.

I quickly discovered that Alice, Steven Lundy’s assistant, was recently brought into the picture by Henry. She has an almost unhealthy disdain for Jeremy and I decided to tell him about this. He was mad yet unsurprised before revealing to me that she came out of nowhere to take his job and now he was stuck handling the catering. He didn’t know what was in her little book that she carries around everywhere. Little things like this were fun to play with and explore. When talking with Alice she suddenly started asking a few of us random questions like a taste we dislike, our shoe size, and whether or not we would be ok with an entity entering our body (what??).

As we were exploring the various backstories people’s names were called out every few minutes to go through a “test”. This test was conducted, mostly blindfolded, with our body being moved around, lotion (or water) rubbed up and down our hands and arms, paint applied to our faces, being forced to drink an unknown liquid, and being measured head to toe. I can’t be too sure I was being measured but that’s sure what it sounded like with the blindfold on.

At one point I was pulled aside in a choke hold by someone who said “I know you but you don’t know me, at some point they will ask you to drink something, take this to counteract it” and shoved a little pill into my hand. He must be who I was emailed about a few days earlier from someone named wk (doubleyou kay). The email warned me about the goings on with the Order and was part of a resistance. Wk mentioned “a society member will find you that night. trust them. please.”

The test ended with a neat scene where my blindfold was lifted for a moment to witness a woman with a mask dancing in the distance. The blindfold was put back on and quickly lifted again as she is standing a foot away. It was startling and she started to talk to me about how we all wear masks as she takes her mask off to reveal yet another mask of what appeared to be someone else’s face. She asks if I’m ready to take my mask off. I took it to mean she was going to cut my face off but I nodded anyway. She then opened the door and I was back in the lounge.

After everyone went through the test sequence Steven Lundy gathered around for a speech. Order of Bileth pins were given to all attendees to commemorate Remembrance Day. In a touching moment Steven knighted Carl, a participant of prior pop-up events and the ARG, the 6th Leading Knight of the Order. He seemed genuinely surprised.

Shortly after the knighting Steven talked about a missing 2nd Knight and that she had served her penance for the wrongdoing that got her kicked out in the first place. He welcomed his daughter Rachel back to the Order. She was a girl who was introduced in the welcome ceremony as the youngest Order member. She had appeared very distracted and shifty throughout the night but she chalked it up to just being shy when asked. Steven never mentioned she was his daughter or a 2nd Knight prior and I’m not sure if that was news to everyone or just to those not following the ARG.

After this speech we were escorted to the finale. Steven Lundy spoke of bringing Bileth back to walk on this earth. That we were all tested to find the perfect human vehicle for Bileth’s return. We were thinking one of us might be chosen when Steven reveals his daughter Rachel was decided to be the perfect specimen. She proceeds to freak out and melt down pleading with her father not to do this to her. She says she’s scared. She’s screaming.

Suddenly Henry starts to yell at Steven scolding and cussing at him saying he was making decisions for personal reasons implying he didn’t have the best interests of the Order in mind. He accuses Rachel of being wk and that it all happened on Steven’s watch right under his nose. Henry restrains Steven and proceeds to have Rachel strangled in front of all of us. Steven is let go and he crawls to his now dead daughter and Henry yells at all of us to leave.

The Order of Bileth

As you can see the story is very dense and I definitely didn’t understand all of it. In that sense it felt very real because, like in life, this wasn’t a perfectly buttoned up story. The characters all had existing purpose and personality. This is probably a function of the ongoing ARG but still worked nicely for those of us coming in cold. There are many unanswered questions and story threads to play with here in the future.

I think the structure of the show worked and the meet & greet with the disciples had enough time to breathe that I felt I got a chance to explore each character’s backstory. You had to put some work in to get the story elements out of this portion and those willing to engage likely had a great time.

I personally wished the walkthrough “test” was a lot longer in length but this event was perfect for people who wanted a deep narrative. I also noticed some elements borrowed from other shows (the antidote from a stranger was done in Alone’s Acheland for example) though in the grand scheme of things these are blips in the 2 hour show.

I applaud the Order of Bileth for putting on a uniquely structured and entertaining show and look forward to future events.

Optika Moderna - Waking La Llorona

Remount tickets can be found here.

Experienced: August 20, 2017
Location: Bread + Salt
Address: 1955 Julian Ave, San Diego, CA
Price: Free
Audience Size: 1
Runtime: 20 minutes
More Information: Optika Moderna Site, Instagram

The show is framed as an appointment with E.S. Moctezuma for reasons unknown. The appointment begins with a brief interaction and masterfully transitions into the narrative experience based on the La Llorona folklore.

Optika Moderna’s Waking La Llorona plays out like a silent movie or a distant memory. The production is top notch across the board from the sound and sets to the acting, dancing, and interaction. The only complaint I have is how short the piece is as it runs shorter than the 30 minutes advertised. It’s not intense and is a very accessible show if you can get over going through alone and walking through some dark, haunt-like, sets.

According to this No Proscenium interview the piece is a workshop with a possibility of an extension so keep an eye out for show dates. Although the story told is complete as is I hope to see a longer form show from Optika Moderna in the future.

The IT Experience - Neibolt House Hollywood

Free haunted house inspired by the 2017 horror movie It.

Experienced: August 17, 2017
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Address: Hollywood and Vine
Price: Free
Audience Size: 7-12
Runtime: 10 minutes
More Information: The IT Experience Site

An old, decrepit, house has popped up at the famous Hollywood and Vine intersection in Los Angeles. This self described “haunted house experience” is part of the marketing for the new movie based on Stephen King’s book IT.

The facade and sets in this haunted house are all top notch and similar to what you would find at Knott’s Scary Farm or Universal Halloween Horror Nights. What differs is the pacing and style in which you traverse the haunt. They’ve decided to not ‘conga line’ the haunt and pulse guests in 7 at a time. The night I went I was in a group of about 12 so I believe they’ve increased the group size due to the demand.

You are escorted through the rooms in the house by an actor in a yellow raincoat playing Georgie, a 6 year character from the book. As the group ahead goes into the house there is an excellent photo opportunity in front of the beautiful facade. My Georgie was played by a girl and she whimsically gave us the rules of going through the haunt before we ascended a spiral metal staircase to the second floor.

This haunt spans two floors and has about half a dozen rooms to explore and it seems like there’s only one group inside the house at a time. There are various jump scares throughout mostly in the form of props or triggers. There isn’t much talent inside doing the scaring this is more about the atmosphere and technology by way of animatronics and projections.

Some of the trigger based scares are better experienced from the front of the group but everyone in my group enjoyed their visit through the Neibolt House. Though a waiver is required to go through the haunt there isn’t any physical contact of any kind.

Even if you don’t have a (currently sold out) ticket you can wait in the standby line anytime between 11am to 11pm through September 10. Be aware, the line moves very slowly, but if you’re in the area and have some time check it out!

The System by The Lust Experience

Seated seminar with lots of laughs and a few tense and emotional moments.

Experienced: August 13, 2017
Location: Arena Cinema
Address: 1625 N Las Palmas Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Price: $29.99-$99.99 (tiered tickets)
Audience Size: 75 (estimate)
Runtime: 90-150 minutes (depending on tier)
More Information: The Lust Experience site, Noah Sinclair site, Instagram, Facebook

In the weeks and days leading up to the event ticket holders were asked to participate in some extracurricular preliminary lessons in The System. There was the controversial Workshop as well as some other tasks done at home and online. Things like posting to social media one thing you hope to fix about yourself or periscoping one thing you hate about yourself. These tasks were cathartic for many and a great way to realize that despite all of our appearances we have some core things in common like insecurities, issues, and disappointments in this life. It was a far cry from what I was expecting with The System thus far but Noah did imply that we wouldn’t realize the method to his madness.

The day of the event attendees were given a schedule of when to show up based on the ticket we purchased:

5pm - Winners
5:30 - Meh
6pm - Garbage People.

That corresponded to the different ticketing “packages” sold from the high end “IN IT TO FUCKING WIN IT” at $99.99, to the middle tier “I’m almost cool” at $49.99, down to “I showed up” at $29.99. Much of the Noah Sinclair and The System promotional materials had been pretty over the top, in your face, tongue in cheek, and ironic. The show itself was no different.

I was in the Meh batch of tickets and we were let in 5 at a time right at 5:30pm. The first couple of batches got to watch Noah reluctantly, almost disgustingly, sign his signature on a poster. Not once asking anyone’s name or even acknowledging them. He would just sign and wave the poster around until someone took it. After getting the signature we were told to walk into the theater.

The Winners, about 10 of them, were already seated and enjoying their drinks. Apparently the Winners got to spend some time with Noah and drink some fancy alcohol with the man but it sounds like their main interaction beyond that was to answer what they liked the most about him.

This was a small theater with a stage with three chairs on it. One was off to the left side and two were off to the right (one a red king’s chair) side by side in an interview style set up. The screen in the middle of the stage was cycling through nuggets of wisdom (aka how to manipulate people or get what you want) to live The System life. There was hip hop playing through the speakers.

The top two tiers got to watch a warm up to the main event for about 25 minutes hosted by two disciples of The System. It consisted of hypothetical situations (fire your brother, who helped found your company, on his birthday or conduct a board member meeting using only gibberish and physical movement) with random people pulled up from the audience to participate. The vibe was light hearted in nature with a lot of jokes cracked by the hosts.

At 6pm the Garbage People were let in and the show began. Holly, the host of the evening, came out and rolled right into a revealing interview with Sarah Sinclair. She came out looking like a deer in headlights and was very stilted and awkward. Much of Sarah’s responses to the interview elicited chuckles from the audience. She mentioned how she and Noah compete for their son’s affection to the point of having a scoreboard at home indicating who he loves the most at any given moment. Sarah would say something that sounded shocking and funny but follow it up with a one liner that fit The System.

The biggest reveal with Sarah was that she was set up with Noah by Horace (Noah’s father) via her yearly medical exam that turned into further testing before she was ultimately chosen to be the perfect mate for Noah. Horace apparently has many hospitals around town for unknown purposes. During Sarah’s description of how she and Noah met, Horace approached the stage and was visibly unhappy with Sarah’s reveal. It looked as if he was about to shut the interview down when Tom Barrow (scientist, revealed at the iConfidant Meet & Greet to be behind a lot of the brainwashing technology used by the OSDM) cooled him down.

The Lust Experience

Andy Jenkins (confuseddude on the forums) was recently revealed to be a product of The System in this video and, with Sarah, conducted the Workshop from a couple of weeks ago. He came out on stage and started out much in the same manner as Sarah where he appeared to be shy and not know what to say. He eventually launched into a speech singing the praises of Noah and The System. Andy meandered through seemingly random topics, once bringing two people from the audience to debate the best Batman, to prove a point. “That which I believe was defining me was actually killing me.”

His point was that we let things like pop culture define us as individuals but they’re ultimately useless. He discussed how our primal instincts are manipulated on every level from the sweet foods we eat to the likes we crave on social media. He was drawing parallels between our excesses and masturbation. Unnecessary exploitations of human emotions for unnecessary pleasure, ultimately not really living life. He finished off his diatribe with a one liner like “before.. I only knew how to masturbate but Noah Sinclair taught me to fuck!” The analogy fit perfectly and had the crowd doubled over with laughter. He then proceeded to chant “Noah Sinclair!” over and over until Holly finally took the microphone away from him.

The tone then quickly changed as Holly brought out a special guest. It was a key player, Mike Fontaine (My Haunt Life), from last year’s The Tension Experience. He had been mostly absent this season but gave us a glimpse into his current headspace and how he was open to The System helping him after seeing the good it did with others through the recent periscope tasks. There were several audience members in tears because of his powerful, presumably unscripted, real life struggles. He spoke from the heart and it was a huge, unexpected, emotional moment for the community and this seminar.

What followed was a montage of some poignant clips from various audience periscopes ending with Neil Patrick Harris talking about how The System has helped him in his life.

Holly then said “this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. A man who needs no introduction!” Rap music blaring through the speakers and stage lights were flashing for an, ironically played out, over the top introduction as Noah Sinclair took the stage. Up until this point the show had been so tight and entertaining I had actually forgotten the reason we were all gathered together! I was genuinely excited.

Noah Sinclair delivered the goods. He came out and performed like a motivational stand up comic disappointed with us yet determined to turn us into winners. He talked about how we all looked like ugly, bald, defenseless, newborn babies, and that it was not a bad thing. His point was we didn’t yet know how to process the world as he knew it yet but there was hope for us. He would show us the way. He would show us The System.

We all had three index cards and pencils to write answers to various questions he had for us ranging from one goal you want to accomplish in a year to who are you. He would frantically bounce around the stage and seated areas grabbing people’s answers, crumbling them up, throwing them back at people, apparently not happy with the responses he was reading. He gave us a collective re-do of one question in particular he wasn’t happy with the answers to. This unexpected technique actually helped many of us come up with a better, less generic, year goal.

When buying a ticket to The System we had to write why we were a failure and he focused on some of these asking the author to come up to the stage. He brought people on stage to play out scenarios to help a few face their deficiencies and weaknesses. There was a young man who had answered that he had no failures. Noah asked him to come up and tied him up to a chair and slapped him around until he finally admitted that he was a failure.

Noah then asked about 8 people from the audience up to the stage and invited his father Horace, the creator of The System, as well. He had some questions collected from the audience and decided to ask his father these questions. At this point Noah was leaning his arm against Horace’s shoulder and it was definitely a sign of disrespect.

For some background, one of the periscope videos was 10 seconds to say what we were going to do with the information we had learned so far. Noah’s version of this was “I will destroy the person who made me this way.” There was a lot of speculation on the forums as to who this person was. We were about to find out.

Noah asked his father 3 questions from index cards written by the audience. 1) Do you believe in Anoch? 2) Are Oracles real? And 3) What do you know about the OSDM? All of these questions are direct references to top three questions someone might ask about The Tension Experience. He then told the audience members on stage to take this opportunity to learn The System from the creator himself and shooed them all backstage with Horace. We could hear Horace raising his voice to those backstage as Noah talked to the rest of us in a serious, non-seminar, tone.

Noah let us know that The System was created by Horace to find a specific type of person, one that would be self motivated, one that wanted and needed success, one that fit the mold of someone that would be useful to him. Noah implied he was tired of this and that this would turn us into monsters. Noah muttered to himself that he was going to “work the system” and stormed off the stage and left the theater. The seminar was over.

The Lust Experience

A few thoughts about this event:

  • This was the tightest, most natural, and entertaining “stage show” yet that I’ve seen from Tension/Lust.
  • It was jam packed with content. Just about every scripted line had a purpose and there was really no filler at all.
  • The humor of the scripted and improv lines were all pitch perfect and consistent throughout the night.
  • There was some weirdness that existed for ambiance (serious girl checking us in while an oddball photographer was whispering things into random people’s ears, photographer taking pictures from weird hidden spots, photographer being told who to photograph at times, Tom Barrow being around but never saying anything publicly).
  • There were no actual seating designations with the tiered pricing.
  • It wasn’t clear what criteria was used to choose Sarah for Noah but her ability to quell his defiant behavior is likely one of them.
  • There were a couple of slow burning references or callbacks:
    1) Noah gave a tinyurl of sinclairfucks linking to one of his promo videos at a bar to some participants. It’s clear now, after Andy’s speech, what “fucks” refers to now
    2) “Work The System” is one of the main taglines used in promos (and appears on the Noah Sinclair website). It has a double meaning now that Noah is clearly against The System and wants to work it.

The Sudden Loneliness Gift - Abendsalon. by Nocturnal Fandango

An evening of poetry, music, food, and drinks outdoors in Newport Beach.

Experienced: August 6, 2017
Location: Undisclosed
Address: Newport Beach, CA
Price: Free-$20 (dependent on subscription tier)
Audience Size: About 40
Runtime: 3 hours
More Information: Sudden Loneliness Gift, Instagram

This outdoor event took place in the evening hours in a lovely backyard of a home in Newport Beach as the sun was setting. All of the attendees were split into 3 different groups based on our the first letter of our first name and we were assigned staggered entry (5pm, 5:10pm, and 5:15pm) into the venue.

As we entered Jason, Chelsea, Buoy, and the owners of the home welcomed us to the evening. One strange thing that occurred was Jason seemed to have forgotten the names of some of the attendees. It’s a good thing Chelsea was there to jog his memory for a few of us. One commonality between those Jason had forgotten is they had experienced trauma in recent one off pop-up events. There is speculation that The Luna Company is somehow related to this memory loss.

The night was split into three distinct performances. The first were poems (written?) and performed by Buoy. The second were songs performed by Sara (official singer for Nocturnal Fandango!) & Erez. And the last were poems written and performed by Jason.

One of the most exciting things about immersive theater is not having a clue as to what you’re walking into. Usually the descriptions are vague and, especially for one off pop-up events, there aren’t any reviews or word of mouth to go off of. I think this show could have benefitted from more information beforehand as it played out like a concert. I commend Nocturnal Fandango for trying something different and new.

Jason’s emotive performance evoked some memories of pieces of Have You Seen Jake? and I’m sure a few of us were concerned about the cops being called on the performance since he was extremely animated. The night ended with a rousing rendition of Oh Susannah/You Little Shit– a twisted poem interspersed with the song Oh Susannah.

The Rise of Bileth by the Order of Bileth

Fun introduction to the world of the Order of Bileth.

Experienced: July 30, 2017
Location: Midsummer Scream 2017
Address: Long Beach Convention Center
Price: Free (with Midsummer Scream 2017 admission)
Audience Size: 1-4
Runtime: 15-20 minutes
More Information: Order of Bileth Site, Instagram, Twitter

Up until this point I hadn’t experienced any Bileth related events. I had heard about their ongoing ARG and I also knew it was related to the serialized audio drama podcast Return Home.

Their experience at Midsummer Scream played out like a scavenger hunt across the showroom floor and nearby areas interspersed with character interactions.

It started with checking in at their booth to be taken behind a curtained off area behind their booth. I was told about Bileth, paint was drawn on my forehead, and I was given a task to find a woman with a red umbrella. I walked around the showroom floor and beyond looking for the woman with the umbrella.

The Order of Bileth

Eventually I found the woman with the umbrella she was in an inconspicuous spot almost hidden beside a staircase. I let her know I was told to find her and she gave more information with a story complete with us closing our eyes, walking around us, lightly touching us on the back, and at one point hugging me all in sync with her monologue. She mentioned in vague terms what the next steps were. I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to find a room and step into it, outside it, face it, or what. My hunch was to step outside it and sure enough when I did I saw a short message and a phone number written in yellow chalk.

After calling the phone number I was instructed to find a booth, step up to the podium, and ask to receive Bileth’s blessing. The booth was not the same as the original booth I started in so I was very curious where I was being led to. Did the Order of Bileth have two booths at Midsummer Scream? Why would there be a podium at a booth?

It led to the HorrorBuzz booth and sure enough there was a podium there. I was given a parchment with unintelligible writing in another language. I’m not sure what the font was but I was told to hand it to someone at or near the Screaming Room (a HorrorBuzz sponsored screening room of spooky movies).

I handed the parchment to the person waiting at the door of the Screaming Room. He looked long and hard at both sides of my paper and I was sure he was part of the experience. He then went to ask someone else and told me who he thought I should talk to about it. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what I was talking about at all. This was the only snag as there appeared to be a backup of people waiting but what followed was a pretty lengthy and satisfying finale to the experience.

There was a group of 4 of us waiting and a gentleman took the parchment and appeared to be very pleased. He said that this was an incantation that would help them capture a creature and asked if we would help him perform this ritual. Of course we obliged. He thanked us profusely and walked with us to a hallway in a relatively quiet area of the convention.

He walked us behind a curtain and there was a circle on the ground drawn with salt as well as some candles. He asked one of us to volunteer to be bait for this creature. The rules of what were to happen were strange and exciting. Our volunteer would have blood drawn on her head as she would be led out to lure the creature to the spot we were in. She was to run through the salted circle and the creature, following, would get stuck inside the circle. The incantation would be spoken and we would have helped the Order out.

As our volunteer left we waited for a bit. The wait was longer than I expected and then seemingly out of nowhere our bait came running at full speed like a bat out of hell with a demon-like creature right behind. It was exhilarating as we all held hands around the circle as this creature kept trying to break through it. The acting of this creature was phenomenal our group was completely immersed in this tense moment. The incantation was spoken and the struggle subsided. It seemed to have worked.

I can tell a lot of thought was put into this experience and while it did borrow a couple of elements from Alone Experience’s past con showings (paint on the forehead and a woman with an umbrella) this experience was totally different as it was very story and script driven.

I had a great time going through this experience. At one point in the finale a random con participant peeked behind the curtain and the actor played it off like a champ telling him casually that we were performing a ritual. The guy just said “oh OK sorry” as if it was a normal thing to accidentally stumble into. Only at Midsummer Scream.

I look forward to joining the Remembrance Day event to partake in “Casual Cocktail Hour, Rituals, Ceremony, & More”.