#bedrUmplaI – A Surreal, Intimate Solo Immersive
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was submitted by guest writer, Matthew Kennedy.
“Wut do u desire? Wut part of that has hurt u? Wut part of that has made u feel free? How much of it do u need?” That, and a pair of slightly odd text messages, were pretty much all I had to go on before #bedrUmplaI, a solo immersive show by Keight Leighn (co-creator of Snow Fridge, currently in remount after the Hollywood Fringe Festival) and Shayne Eastin (creator of Secret Thing LA, also involved in Snow Fridge and Delusion: The Blue Blade). My first solo immersive show, in fact, though perhaps “show” isn’t quite the word I’d use for it. It felt almost a guided introspection, relying heavily on the participant’s willingness to engage deeply with Leighn and Eastin’s characters. The dreamlike setting and the duo’s performances help, but ultimately it’s much more of a two-way street than most productions I’ve been to.
It’s Your Space
I arrive in the (to me, at least) largely unfamiliar territory of Silverlake, and stray further from the normal when I receive a pair of texts informing me that I’ve locked myself out of the apartment again, and would I please put my hair on before coming in. Said hair, in this case, being a bright rainbow wig. This left me trying to decide whether to a) put my guard up and prepare for shenanigans, or b) just don the bloody thing and go with the flow. I choose option B, as Eastin welcomes me in and we have a chat about dreams, both in general and about one she had recently. Eastin did a solid job setting the tone for the affair, and it was also honestly just a fun conversation for a few minutes before Eastin led me down the hall to my room. Certainly a very different room from my normal one, with dimmed lights, a big purple bed, stars projected on the ceiling, and what looked like a half-finished bit of spellcraft laid out in stones on the floor.
It’s here that the participant’s willingness to open up, or at least get into character, becomes essential. Leighn does a fantastic job of fostering connection out of nothing and making the scene feel more like hanging out with a dear friend than a random stranger, but she aims to guide our conversation rather than take the lead. A return to those original four questions takes up the bulk of my interaction, followed by rearranging the stones on the floor and ending with us dancing together. I spent the entire drive home pondering the experience and being more than a little surprised at how deep I’d allowed myself to go with someone I’d never met, or even heard of, beforehand.
Breaking All the Walls
I have a pet theory that at least part of the growth in immersive theater is driven by a desire to break people out of the web of superficial, largely observational relationships social media tends to create. Tear down the fourth wall, make the audience a part of the art, and put more genuine interaction in their lives. #bedrUmplaI is that taken to another level, almost completely stripping away plot and narrative in favor of not merely connecting audience and cast but actually creating (emotional) intimacy. I have to appreciate the irony (or perhaps just straight cleverness) of Eastin’s scene, as the entire show plays out like one big dream sequence. The assumed familiarity, odd touches here and there, and surreal hangout with a stranger who acts and feels like an old friend feel less like a script than something Leighn literally came up with after waking up from a dream of her own and setting it to paper.
It works, if you let it. It can be a big ask to let down your walls and open up to a pair of total strangers, but for those willing and able to just go with it, #bedrUmplaI can be a very positive, even powerful experience. I recommend giving it a shot.