“One single thing will always be amiss. Every night, every day, every year after this…”
The Lust Experience’s Anointment came and went this past week in a heady flurry of sex, violence, drugs, and ritual. Running the course of December’s waning moon and ending just after the New Moon rose over Los Angeles, Anointment brought to a close the nearly year-long “Part One” of a richly-detailed community-based experience. The preceding incarnation, The Tension Experience, introduced us to a violent cult that in itself was a facade disguising a more sinister organization: The OSDM, a shadowy and unyielding group designing immersive theater to harvest emotional data. This year, at Anointment, we were invited to enter OSDM headquarters, the heart of the lion’s den, with no guarantee we’d be coming back out.
The event itself begins with our group in a parking lot, as the representative for those who’ve formed a resistance to the OSDM explains that he’s one-upped their plan to send us to a PR stunt cum soiree; we’re going to the real headquarters to get some real answers. For an event that’s been bolstered by a thriving core community of players, who have been following the extensive and ever-changing lore of Tension and now Lust’s two year-long Alternate (or Actual?) Reality Game, the idea of “real” answers is, as expected, very subjective.
Once inside the compound, the personal narrative for each participant begins to branch out. As with Tension before it, dedicated followers of the accompanying ARG may have the opportunity to unlock unique dialogue and behavior from characters with the information they’ve gathered over the year. The structure of Anointment, however, is designed to intrigue and engage both newcomers and long-standing visitors to this world alike. The main room of the compound is scattered with various congenial, yet somewhat sinister, characters, and is designed for mingling – once guests have all removed some clothing, of course. Anointment doesn’t dance around the idea that we’ve entered a land of loose morals and loose behavior; it encourages it. Not to mention: the journey goes on to expose far more than our undergarments.
Moving through the experience, this sandbox-style continues; guests are free to interact with the assembled characters, though there are clear branching tracks that are embarked upon depending on the choices a participant makes. Your agency will determine the progression of your story. Interact with the right character and you may end up stripped and Anointed, or alternately plotting to rescue a hopeless servant. Every character has a story to tell, and your participation in that story determines its outcome. Upon repeated visits, guest can once again use this agency to take a wholly different path through OSDM headquarters.
The setting for Anointment is deftly designed to support the myriad of narrative possibilities. We enter a large, open space, sparsely decorated, which narrows through a door into what feels like an intimate, yet expansive mansion. Rooms lead off down back hallways into impeccably detailed scenarios; these rooms feel lived in, but in a tragic, as if the characters here are truly trapped in this ever-repeating cycle of sadism. Throughout the structure, a low atmospheric hum often swells into sudden, startling music, highlighting points of dramatic tension. These elements of the production bolster the undercurrent of dread that permeates this unusual party.
Deeper into the compound, a joint exercise in trust and command around a dinner table is a particular highlight. This exercise, in which participants are instructed to share secrets while maintaining physical contact with their partner, forces an intimacy amongst members of the group who are often strangers. It is a simple, yet extremely effective bonding technique that is, of course, immediately subverted by another partner being made to ask that another article of our clothing be removed. It’s a powerful statement on the difference between different levels of intimacy, one driven by trust, the other by desire.
Deeper still, unstable and aggressive characters stumble about, cursing, grabbing at the helpless female servants, many of which will tell us they’re trapped in here, beg us to help them escape. By this point many participants have been split off to follow divergent paths towards a disturbing finale. Two from each group, one male and one female, are selected to be “anointed” – we are stripped, made to wash, and fellow group members are uncomfortably brought in to “prepare our bodies” for some sort of ritual. This particular path through Anointment may be the most compelling: anointed participants are led into a dressing room, where they meet Anna, an actress who bitingly acknowledges that she’s been hired to work here. Her resolve seems to be on the verge of cracking, as she turns to each of the two participants and proves her authenticity by reading their personalities simply by looking at them. This encounter is incredibly moving; we are naked before this woman, yet become so emotionally exposed by her words, we enter the ritual chamber raw and shaken.
The Honoring ritual, as the OSDM refers to it, is again keeping with the idea of forced-debauchery that whirls throughout Anointment. The selected two participants are led, hooded, to a bed, and are unmasked to see hooded figures and the faces of those others in their group, looming before them. The speedy realization of what they are expected to do spreads quickly, and is so alarming, that when interrupted by the incorrigible Noah Sinclair, delivering a powerful speech about love over lust, an audible sigh of relief escapes many participants.
The event ends abruptly here; having failed to complete an Honoring, participants are roughly escorted out of the building, discarded clothing returned in heaps. We stumble out into the December night shivering from so much more than the cold.
Anointment is a fully interactive and provocative event; you will be touched and prodded, your personal space a fleeting thought. You will confront your demons, share your fears and desires; you will emerge from the rubble of self-doubt. This event challenges you, lays you bare in front of yourself and those you’ve be grouped with. Physical nakedness is treated with far less value than nakedness of the soul. Anointment pulses with a gravitating, lurid energy. It startles and teases, frightens and unnerves, and pries open the will of participants to leave them open to accepting new truths about themselves. Yes, the OSDM are, narratively, a clearly nefarious organization, but that is not to say there aren’t positive personal lessons to be learned within their walls.
This is an experience that will refuse to leave you; its lingering effects will replay in your mind, sensual and frightening flashbacks, like a softly whispered invitation to return.
The Lust Experience is not over yet–and will return in 2018 for more excitement. For more information on The Lust Experience, Anointment, or any future events, please check out their Website, Facebook, and Instagram.