This weekend, The Unmarked Door presents “The Heart of Winter”, a whimsical, light-hearted, and magical experience. But this isn’t your traditional holiday adventure—The Heart of Winter comes complete with polar bears, snowball fights, and an unfolding romance set to a backdrop of music and falling snow.
“Wrap up wintery and be prepared to dodge a snowball attack.”
The Unmarked Door: Inclusion at its Heart
The Unmarked Door is “a vehicle for all sorts of ’open frame’ experiments with a sense of inclusion being at the heart of the mission.” It brings together a team of successful musicians and composers with some immersive heavyweights: Sterling Powers, writer, and songwriter/performer; project manager Savannah Wheeler, a Los Angeles-based musician/songwriter and film composer; production designer Liam Moore, who has worked with Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema as well as numerous LA immersive shows; and director Syrie Moskowitz, whose impressive resume includes NYC-based director of immersive theatre, actress in shows like Sleep No More and The Midnight Frolic, model, writer, photographer and filmmaker.
And the icing on top of this Christmas cake is The Unmarked Door’s founder, British film composer and songwriter, Rolfe Kent. Writing scores for over fifty films, including Academy Award nominated Up in the Air for which he won a Golden Satellite award, and Sideways for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award in 2007, Kent may be best known for his Emmy-nominated main title theme for the hit TV show, Dexter.
But what draws such an established name in film and television to create a company like The Unmarked Door?
“I find immersive to have the potential to be utterly thrilling, and for a few years have been fomenting ideas and projects, so it seemed natural to start a company to do this kind of work. I love my work composing for film orchestras, but there is something electrifying about live performance, so I am inexorably drawn to combine live music with interactive experiences.”
A Seasonal Tale: With More Bears!
The Heart of Winter began as a simple “pop-up” concept – “I had some time available in my schedule, a terrific space became available in Culver City (thanks to the Helms Design Center), and Sterling suggested adult Camp as an idea.”
But Kent was set on the show having a seasonal flavour: “having been winter camping in the Yukon, I liked the ridiculous idea of wintery indoor camping. And then the ambition grew; suddenly there are songs and forests and bears. I have a mantra ‘More Elephants!’ that reminds me to think big, and I think it took hold. If in doubt: MORE ELEPHANTS! Or ‘More Bears!’, ‘Trees!’, ‘Snow!’, or what have you.”
Let the Music Guide You
Unsurprisingly, music is core to this immersive experience: “for me it became a way to guide the unfolding of the piece and bring production value – a sense of being transported to another world. It’s amazing how sound can change how a room feels.”
“It is remarkably similar to scoring a film in that it is all about guiding the energy and the emotion. Of course, it has to be adjusted for the acoustics of the place and for the voices of singers, and the movement between speaking and singing is always an ongoing experiment as you don’t want to lose the audience. The thing I like about musicals though is when an audience buys into it then you know they have really followed you into this alternate reality.”
Kent describes the process as being “very natural and comfortable”, especially in terms of his collaboration with the rest of The Unmarked Door team. But the immersive elements of the show really came together when Moskowitz “took the reigns” as director: “Her experience is amazing, and her immersive sensibility is exactly what I hoped for. We are both so keen on audience feeling their presence is significant, and the opportunity to feel they can discover something of their own.”
The Heart of Winter does indeed have many opportunities for discovery and for interaction, but patrons can choose their level of participation. Alongside the mugs of hot cocoa and winter waltzing, there are opportunities to explore an ice cave, reunite with old college friends, and witness the unfolding of a love story that may or may not end in a kiss. “There is room for individual experiences, yet is also shaped around a narrative, so those looking for a sense of agency will find something satisfying here. But those who would rather just witness it unfolding will find themselves happily engaged with some of the action while able to take a back seat too.”
Winter Fun for All
“I hope people feel joy and delight from the show, which the snowball fights alone should guarantee! Perhaps the music will fuel their own winter dreams. And I’d be thrilled if this brought a new crowd to immersive or open-frame experiences.”
So, don your most festive attire, warm up those vocal chords, and prepare to frolic in this immersive Winter Wonderland: “Just know it is joyful, and come to relax and discover. You may even get to sing.”
An Ambitious Future
The Unmarked Door team has 4 shows currently in development, “from the mysterious and dark to the hot and sizzling.” Coming in March 2018 is “a disturbing sensory experience developing that may cause you to question what you thought was real or even possible.”
The Heart of Winter runs Saturday, December 16th (6:30pm and 9pm) and Sunday, December 17th (5pm and 8pm). Click here for tickets and use the code SNOWBALL for a discounted $35 dollar ticket!