Hollywood Fringe: 2018 Creators Set Immersive Expectations for Each Show

For the second year in a row, the Hollywood Fringe has designated “immersive theatre” as one of the official categories of performance for their yearly festival. This year we’ll be treated to a deliciously broad range of experiences from both familiar voices and first time creators stretching the definition of immersive theatre in a dozen exciting directions ranging from intensely personal and demanding one-on-one encounters to more relaxed and anonymous audience participation within a more traditional proscenium setting.

 

To better inform the expectations of potential ticket buyers and demystify some of the vaguer synopses presented on the Fringe website, Haunting reached out to the creators behind all nineteen* productions that have chosen “immersive theatre” as their primary classification to learn what an attending participant should expect when attending their shows when it comes to involvement, agency, intensity, and potential for physical interaction.

 

Based on their responses we have distilled quick, straightforward answers to the questions of whether performers speak to participants, whether participants may/must speak to performers, whether a participant’s actions/choices can appreciably affect the experience’s outcome, what physical demands are made of the participants, and what, if any, physical contact is planned between participant and performer. In most cases, when appropriate, these answers are followed by direct quotes from the creators themselves in order to provide context and greater understanding of the way each production operates and illuminate what makes each experience unique. While every show has been billed as immersive, we have also organized the productions into three sub-categories: “Solo Experiences,” “Group Immersions,” and “Traditional Theatre with Audience Participation.”

 

Below you will of course also find links to each production’s Fringe page, all related social media profiles, and, in the case of some shows, unique features we wanted to highlight. We hope that this article will help to promote safety and awareness during this crowded Fringe season and guide you not only towards shows you’re already primed to enjoy, but introduce you to experiences you wouldn’t normally seek out. That’s what Fringe is all about! So get out there and support some independent and original works in what promises to be an exciting and inspiring Fringe, no matter what flavor of immersive you’re in the mood for!

 

*Although they remain listed on the site, we have been informed that both Andy: the Red-Nosed Warhola and HE/R are no longer expected to perform at this year’s Fringe Festival.

 

Solo Experiences

 

Death and Coffee (Annie Lesser)

Rated 7+

Running time: 15 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“It is a one on one between myself and another person… done in my apartment. There are opportunities for the audience member to speak, touch, and taste.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

Physical demands on the participant?

Sitting for length of show. Performance space only accessible by stairs.

“Sitting on bench, chairs or floor mats depending on audience preference throughout.”

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light to none.

“Small, incidental contact that you would normally expect when spending time with someone. Intimacy level is dictated by the nonverbal and verbal cues of the audience member.”

Social media: Instagram

 

 

one last thing before you go fringe poster

One Last Thing Before You Go (Some Company)

Rated 18+ for language and mature themes including emotional abuse

Running time: 25 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“Audience can interact (speak); it is not scripted in a traditional sense.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

Yes.

“Audience participation (or lack thereof) dictates which ending occurs. The show’s conclusion is entirely dependent on what the audience does or does not do.”

Physical demands on the participants?

Walking between rooms, standing.

“Audience will need to listen to and follow audio instructions, and move from place to place, ether walking or by wheelchair. Audience will be seated in the first part, and on their feet in the second part—although they can sit down if they so choose. The entire experience is 20-30 minutes, and audience members should expect to stand for roughly half of that (10-15 minutes)—though again, they can sit if they choose, but it might be awkward.”

Physical contact between participant and performer?

None.

 

 

Snow Fridge (dr3am logikk)

Rated 21+ since it is performed in a bar. All actual content can be appropriate for any age, customized to the individual audience member

Running time: 16 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“It is a 100% interactive experience crafted specifically for one audience member at a time. The audience member will have full, improvised conversations and other nonverbal interactions with the performers.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

Yes.

“The audience member will influence the outcome of their own experience.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Walking, standing, using a single flight of stairs.

“Throughout the piece, the audience member will be engaging in different activities which may include sitting, standing, walking, or other types of movement – the sequence will be different for everyone and audience members will not be pressured to do anything they are not comfortable with.”

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light.

“There is physical contact between actors and audience members. It is all intended to be gentle and comforting. However, if they prefer, audience members can request in advance to not be touched and we will honor that.”

Social media: Instagram and Facebook

 

 

The Stars (Ceaseless Fun)

Rated 18+

Running time: 45 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing, walking between multiple locations along the streets of Hollywood.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light.

Social media: Instagram and Facebook

 

 

Group Immersions

 

 

escape from godot fringe poster

Escape from Godot (Mister and Mischief)

Rated 16+

Running time: 1 hour

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“Audience members will be expected to speak to the performers, however they will not be required to adapt or adopt a character.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

Yes.

“Our show requires the audience to get out of their seats and interact with the play as it is performed, and by doing so, create a unique experience for themselves and a different performance every time.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing and walking.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light.

“While it is not necessary for the narrative, we expect casual, familiar, and non-threatening contact.”

Other notes: “I think it’s important to be clear that previous knowledge of any source or inspiration material is NOT necessary. Theatre nerds, escape room addicts and all generally playful souls are welcome.”

Social media: Instagram

 

 

God: The Apologies Tour (They Played Productions)

Rated 13+ for mature themes and some language

Running time: 1 hour

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“Audience will choose where to initially go and where their journey takes them during the show, speaking with one, a couple, or several Creators. They will be directly asked questions and given opportunities to respond, engage, and converse. They will be highly encouraged to move around the space, be encouraged to participate and even speak, but it will not be a solid requirement.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

“As long as some audience participates, the show will go smoothly without everyone being required to chime in specifically. It is encouraged, but the show won’t stop for anyone if they choose to not engage. Again though, it’s highly encouraged for them to do so.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing with the option to sit, walking around the room.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light.

”[There will be] some hand shaking, possible gentle leading into another room by the hand, some contact to encourage some light activities. (Example – put ingredients into a bowl).”

Social media: theyplayed.com and facebook

 

 

Ghosts (Dream Walker)

Rated 13+ for mature themes (claims to include nudity)

Running time: 90 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“You will be able to get a chance to whisper to those who are still alive from time to time and affect them. But it will be limited due to the dramaturgical reasons. Those who are dead cannot speak.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

“Whether you’re quietly listening or actively move around and whisper to another audience/performers, you will be able to find a specific meaning at the end of the show. We are designing the show in that way so all kinds of audiences can experience something bold and deep in their own ways.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing and walking throughout the space.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light.

 

 

One Brief Moment of Joy (Undone Horizon Productions)

Rated 18+ for mature themes

Running time: 1 hour

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“This show is highly driven by audience input and dialogue. Due to the nature of the show you will be speaking mostly in English and your participation will be nonstop. Leading up, we’ll be in touch in order to customize each evening for our special guests and initiate them into the “One Brief Moment of Joy” movement. our guests are asked to create their own characters within the fiction of our show prior to their experience and enact those roles if they opt to.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

Yes.

“We’re giving the audience agency to choose their level of engagement with the show. If they want to sit in the living room and watch people go by that’s an option. If they want to jump in and dye someone’s hair, that’s also an option. It’s really what they want to get out of it. We’d really like audiences to get involved and collaborate in our playful mischief.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing, walking.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light to moderate.

“[With any physical contact] consent will be asked for.”

Unique features: “We’re also featuring the content of our Fringe show via Livestream on Youtube and Twitch for those not as inclined to be more reactive in this kind of environment and also to stay within the true Fringe spirit of accessibility. However, the Livestream has it’s own set of puzzles that people can opt into and pay for control of the camera.”

Website: www.obmoj.com
Social media: instagram and twitter

 

 

Rochester, 1996 (Capital W/Drycraeft Los Angeles)

Rated 16+ for adult themes

Running time: Two hours

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“Audience members should expect to speak and be spoken to in order to fully participate in the piece.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing, walking (possibly between different locations), riding in a vehicle between locations.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light.

“There will be light physical contact, as you might expect in a warm, close-knit community.”

Social media: InstagramTwitterFacebook

 

 

The Study (MB Stage Productions Inc.)

Rated 18+ for sexual themes, violence, blood, and other possible triggers including loud noises and smoke

Running time: 90 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

Yes.

“The audience has the ability to directly affect the outcome of each performance. Working with or against the actors on stage. Once the show begins the audience will have several opportunities to affect the fate of the show and the characters. Think of it as a large group chose your own adventure. Members can choose to interact or not but it may have an unforeseen effect on the story that night.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Mostly sitting.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light.

“Minimal [physical contact] at the beginning, handshakes, passing of notes, papers etc.”

Social media: twitter @mbstage

 

 

Unreal City (2Cents Theatre Group)

Rated 16+ for sexual content and violence. Those under 18 not permitted without an adult

Running time: 75 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“They will have many opportunities to speak to performers, but not required.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

Yes.

“Audiences will have complete agency in choosing their paths. From actively choosing which character to follow, to having to “compete” to determine who moves on where, each audience member will curate their own narrative through their choices.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing, walking between multiple locations. Walking up and down stairs.

“Will take place over multiple interior and exterior locations around Theatre Row in Hollywood. All locations will exist near if not between Vine and Wilcox, and Lexington and Romaine. Audience will travel from one location to the next, always accompanied by actors, usually on foot. The audience will be standing for much of the experience, though certain scenes will involve sitting down. They will be mostly walking from one location to the next, and possibly climbing several stairs.”

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Moderate.

“Possible, but only moderate (familial) physical contact. Audience comfort with physical contact will be assessed early on.”

Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

 

 

The Witnessing (The Unmarked Door)

Rated 18+ for fear inducing, mature themes

Running time: 45 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“Our paranormal experts are eager to share their knowledge, and also to hear from the public about their own experiences and insights, so there is certainly going to be discourse with our guests.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

Physical demands on the participant?

Mostly sitting.

“The audience will be mostly sitting during our talk and demonstrations. Audience will not be required to perform any physical tasks, beyond passing around objects of interest.”

Physical contact between participant and performer?

None.

“Audience may handle and study certain artifacts from past cases, but there is no person-to-person physical contact between our experts and the guests.”

Social media: twitter, instagram, facebook

 

 

What Went Wrong (Shinbone Theatre Company)

Rated 16+ for harsh language

Running time: 25 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“Their discussions, interactions, etc. are the driving force of the piece. Audience members will be directly spoken to, asked questions of, and encouraged to discuss their opinions, feelings, and philosophies with each other.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

Yes.

“The story and its outcome are shaped by what they do, by how they react. Participation of the audience is absolutely essential – we will be encouraging as much interaction as possible, and the more an audience member wants to engage with the cast, the more they will get out of the piece.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing, walking around the room, ability to wear and process VR via a headset.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light to none.

“Any physical contact that happens will be cursory and professional – a handshake, or assistance in putting on our VR headsets.”

Unique features: A website and call-in number dedicated to the show’s in-world company Closure, Inc. are now live. Further AR elements are expected to begin for future audience members once tickets have been purchased. Also, of course, actual integrated VR during the performance!

Website: http://www.closureinc.net/

 

 

When Skies Are Gray (The Visceral City Project)

Rated 18+ for mature themes including death

Running time: 70 minutes

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“Most of the piece the audience has a “fly on the wall” experience but there are times where they will be spoken to directly and will be invited to speak or do something.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

“It’s not essential for all of the audience to participate but is helpful if most of them do.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Sitting.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light.

“They may be taken by the hand or hugged by [an] actor.”

Unique feature: Bolder participants can arrive ten minutes early for the chance to be selected to play the role of a “Nurse” during the experience, being provided with lines and blocking as you join the ensemble in telling this powerful story.

Social media: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

 

 

Traditional Theatre with Audience Participation

 

 

easy targets fringe poster

Easy Targets: Artists and Heroes (Burglars of Hamm)

Rated 13+ for some language

Running time: 1 hour

Performers speaking to participants?

No.

Participants speaking to performers?

No.

“These are one-person shows that the performers try to bring as much honesty as they can to the roles whilst being pelted by socks. The actors actively try to remain committed to their roles despite the audience. They only comment on the performance in rolled up sock form, although sometimes socks just aren’t enough and we do get the occasional vocal outburst.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

“Without the audience, this show would be unbearable due to the preening, self-absorbed performances to which they are subjected. If we are doing things right, its quite the cathartic workout for our patrons.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Sitting in a chair and throwing socks at performers.

“Easy Targets presents 4 short solo shows and then invites the audience to show their “appreciation” by pummeling the performers with rolled-up socks any time they feel bored, annoyed, patronized, manipulated, etc. Each audience of Easy Targets forms a pack working to remind the performers, writers and designers that if they fail to respect the audience, they will suffer the sock.”

Physical contact between participant and performer?

None, but…

“The audience is on three sides so the risk of crossfire is ever present.”

Unique feature: A new installment of the Winner of the HFF17 Best Comedy Award.

Social media: Twitter and Instagram #sufferthesock18

 

 

Henry V and Cocktail Party (Pretend Theatre)

Rated 21+ for being performed in a bar.

Running time: 2 hours

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

No.

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

Physical demands on the participant?

Standing.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

None.

Unique feature: Free glass of beer or wine with every ticket!

Website: www.PretendTheatre.com

Social media: TwitterInstagram, Facebook

 

 

 

snap honey fringe poster

Snap, Honey! (Ma’atology Productions)

Rated 18+ for language, adult situations, and brief nudity

Running time: 1 hour

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“[The audience] will have an opportunity to speak through storytelling, through audience participation exercises, call and response etc.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

Physical demands on the participant?

Sitting.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light to none.

“We have a gogo dance scene and a drag queen performance where the audience is encouraged to give play money to them as tips.”

Unique feature: In the lead up to opening, interested audience members have the opportunity to engage with the character Ms. Vageena during scheduled Facebook Live broadcasts where she can answer questions and offer viewers life advice.

Social media: Facebook

 

 

Spiritual Ecstasy (Spiritual Ecstasy Enterprises)

Rated 12+

Running time: 1 hour

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

Yes.

“We will be carrying on conversations with the audience through out the 1 hour show and if they’d like the opportunity to speak, they will have a chance to participate. We will be including them in everything we do.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

“[We] could come in and do the one hour show without being interactive with the audience, but based on what we do (which one must experience), it makes for a more entertaining and enjoyable evening.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Sitting.

“There maybe some audience members who want to participate on stage if we introduce an unusual musical instrument or are facilitating an energetic healing or if we vocal tone with a Shruti Box. We won’t know until the show.”

Physical contact between participant and performer?

Light to none.

“There is the possibility of participating in an impromptu energetic healing or being held with Divine LOVE. The physical contact will be familial.”

Unique feature: Performed by actual spiritualists/healers.

Website: https://spiritualxtc.com/

Social media: spiritualxtc @ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

 

 

 

 

Taming of the Shamed (Martin Morrow)

Rated 17+ for frank discussions of various types of abuse and trauma as well as other mature themes.

Running time: 1 hour

Performers speaking to participants?

Yes.

Participants speaking to performers?

No.

“’Taming of the Shamed’ breaks the fourth wall almost immediately. I am naturally a talker and a conversationalist and I ask the audience to anonymously interact with me in discussing shame. There are no expectations but there will be opportunities to talk to me and some of the other performers.”

Participants influencing the story’s outcome?

No.

“This is not a show calling anyone out, this is not a show defending anyone’s misdeeds or actions, this is not a show looking to be combative or controversial. It’s a show about raw honesty, about recovery, about mental illness, and about cycles of abuse and what people do to try and break that cycle once they realize a negative pattern has been set. Some of it will be funny, some of it will be sad, some of it will be upsetting. But above anything, it’ll be an honest show.”

Physical demands on the participant?

Sitting.

Physical contact between participant and performer?

None.

Unique feature: A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Violence Intervention Program which helps with outreach, intervention and prevention of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Social media: @gentlemanjervis and @martinMmorrow on Instagram

About The Author

Chris Wollman
Chris first checked into the McKittrick Hotel in 2011 and has loved immersive theatre ever since. He holds a Bachelors in Theatre from SDSU, a Masters in Education from USC, and is currently teaching Shakespeare to kids. As Douglas Adams said, he loves deadlines; he loves the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
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