In the New York City production of the interactive play Sleep No More, theater-goers wandered around a “hotel” for the evening, watching scenes from a dark, Macbeth-like narrative unfold at their own pace in room after room.
The idea of immersive, participatory theater isn’t new, but it’s new to Baton Rouge.
Elevator Projects' "Asylum" event, 2013Elevator Projects' "Asylum" event, 2013Just in time for Halloween, the local arts collective Elevator Projects is bringing a similar experience to the Capital City via the return of its interactive—and a little bit creepy—event “The Asylum.”
It started two years ago in an empty warehouse on Nicholson Drive. Elevator Projects artists repurposed specific areas, including an old walk-in freezer, where visitors could interact with mind-bending installations and performers.
There are a couple of changes this year, though: “The Asylum” is moving to the Walls Project’s Art and Design Center downtown, and the aim is for a more cohesive narrative than before, according to Raina Wirta, Elevator Projects’ co-founder.
Participants will check in—or get admitted—to the asylum in the lobby of the Chase Towers. “Everyone they encounter from that point on will be in character,” Wirta says. “You walk through and experience what you want to experience. There are going to be scenes happening, but they will be happening in multiple spots and as the night goes on, it’s going to tell somewhat of a narrative about this space.”
That space includes everything from the lobby of the Chase Towers to the atrium between the two buildings, the Art and Design Center’s space (with its high windows blacked out) and even the patio outside.
“The Asylum” will feature several performances tied to the narrative throughout the night, adding another new facet to what Wirta hopes will become one of its biggest annual events.
“I’m really excited about this because this is the first time that Elevator Projects artists have been able to collaborate with [performers, dancers, playwrights and others] on a level where they are making something together,” she says.
The event will be held Oct. 30 for the general public, with an invitation-only performance Oct. 29. “The Asylum” will be set in the 1950s, and guests are encouraged to dress up in character.
Wirta says the event will also serve as a major fundraiser for the Art and Design Center (see sidebar).
“We want it to feel like a party, but we also don’t want it to just be a party,” Wirta says. “We’re really being very strategic about how we craft this piece.” elevatorprojects.com
Elevator Projects' "Asylum" event, 2013
The Walls Project’s Art and Design Center has seen plenty of events since it opened less than two years ago, including its own art exhibits, performances and talks. It even served as the setting for a music video for the local band Ship of Fools.
“We’ve done a lot of programming here and it’s consistently been very diverse,” Raina Wirta says. “We’re going through a renovation right now, so we are sort of re-gearing it to be more of an events space that others could use for a lot of different things.”
The Walls Project and Elevator Projects will continue to curate art exhibits in the Art and Design Center, but will also welcome outside exhibits. During the day, the center will still serve as office space for local arts organizations, but it can also be rented out for corporate lunches and workshops, and even wedding receptions in the evening.
While Elevator Projects is hosting “The Asylum” in the Art and Design Center, the event itself will raise money for the center’s operational costs and also highlight how it can be repurposed for unique uses.
“It’s giving us an opportunity to explore what we can do in a theatrical way here. Independent theater and performers can use the space as well,” Wirta says. thewallsproject.org