I Pledge Allegiance–An Intense Immersive Show
“I Pledge Allegiance” practically dares you to describe it to your friends. It doesn’t fit into one tidy category. As their website says, “‘I Pledge Allegiance’ is an intimate immersive theatre piece about fear, politics, and secret societies.” Having Pledged Allegiance myself, I can vouch for all of those things, but there’s also a lot more going on if you take the plunge.
Thrill of the Unknown
Going into any immersive show, I’ve found there is a level of nervousness. Standing by a deserted, creepily-lit door in an unfamiliar part of the city, you’re never really sure how much you’ll be expected to participate. The feeling for me is akin to getting ready to perform. Even though I’m not actually one of the characters, there’s always the chance that other people will react to my actions, or that I’ll be chosen for some task, or that the real performers will need me to provide a foil for them to play off of.
At least I knew (mostly) what I was getting into. A woman in the group who had come with her brother had only been told it was “a political play.” She had never done immersive theater, and didn’t know what to expect. At first I believed her to be a plant, because how do you come to an immersive show like this and not know what you’re in for? Once the show got going, I no longer thought that was the case, and I was really happy she had the guts to go see crazy experimental theater without finding out everything ahead of time. Good for her! We need more people to do that, for immersive theater to catch on like I want it to.
Intense and Unpredictable
I hope she liked it. This show is intense for a first immersive experience. Even though I’ve got a few immersive notches in my belt, the opening still had my heart beating more rapidly than I was expecting. This was coupled with one “No way, is he really going to do that??” moment. That moment was incredible–it made me really think about what I would do in that situation–then again, wasn’t I in that situation NOW, and why wasn’t I acting on it??
During most of the early stages, we’re watching Jonathan Barnes III recruit us to his nascent political movement. He’s captivating, in that charismatic-but-creepy way that many fervent believers have. After another big event to suss out our loyalty, the brother of the aforementioned woman stood up and wondered out loud how much of this was real. I believe his reaction was genuine. After he calmed down a bit, things took a sharp left turn. The immersive aspects really kicked in and now everyone was involved in the proceedings. As usual, your participation level was left to your own discretion. The group seemed pretty invested, with very few shrinking violets that I saw.
Blurring the Lines
Jonathan continued to guide us here, praising our efforts and leading the way only when necessary. For the most part, it was controlled chaos, with some people taking charge and others not knowing what to do. For my part, I contributed initially, then chose to hang back a bit and observe. There was a moment that almost stalled, but thank goodness for Jonathan keeping things on track.
The climax was also unexpected, and abrupt. Soon we were out on the street again, gazing questioningly at each other. Nobody was quite sure if it was really over, or if we had more to do. I love that feeling, of not knowing where the line is between real life and the story you’ve given yourself over to. Unfortunately, this story ended too soon for my liking.
“I Pledge Allegiance” is only playing one more weekend, June 14th through June 16th, so get your tickets now! More information is available at their website here and you can visit the ticketing website here.