How would you feel if physical contact was regulated by the government in the future? If you made unapproved contact and were punished for it? If your life was dictated by ‘social credit scores,’ that determines whether you can work, buy property, or even have children? If one of your senses (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch) was taken away?
Such is a world created by Trailblazer Productions for their pair of immersive experiences coming to Los Angeles soon. The first of which is TOUCH: INCARNATION, a 20 minute ‘sensorial journey’ designed for you to go through solo, followed up a month later by TOUCH, a more in-depth experience for 10 audience members at a time. Both are designed as standalone events, so you can attend one or both to get a good story.
In the world of the show, mysterious group known as the Body Electric is standing up to challenge the system, and in doing so, seeks to rediscover and embrace the very essence of humanity and connection. It will also challenge audience members to use all of their senses to experience the world (and according to the press release, you will even be blindfolded for a good portion of it!).
We were lucky enough to chat with Ben Cox, producer of both events, and have him tell us a bit more about the upcoming shows.
HorrorBuzz: Right off the bat, people can see that there is a lot of world building for your shows…what drew you to create a world where your senses are regulated?
Ben Cox: The idea for this experience was inspired by many of the issues currently facing our species today. It’s an exploration of where we are as humans in 2019, where we’ve come from and where, for better or worse, we’re headed. I think the fear and paranoia that is building in our society is affecting many aspects of humanity. The idea that one day the environment gets so extreme that the whole ‘If some people can’t play with their toys nicely, NO ONE gets to play with their toys’ mentality gets adopted, is frightfully relevant. I wanted to focus on how we maintain our identity and our humanity in such a world, as well as how we develop and maintain relationships in an environment that is dictated by fear. Everything we know about existence is measured by the senses, so the notion of having one or more of those being restricted or eliminated entirely as a form of punishment struck me as a fascinating concept.
HorrorBuzz: What were some of your influences in creating this world and these shows?
Ben Cox: I love the series Black Mirror and the unique ways in which they present ‘man vs. machine.’ The episodes are very much set in a world that feels very much like the present-day; the only thing that’s really futuristic is the technology, which I think adds to the impact and makes it that much more horrifying and relevant. The episodes are set in a world we recognize. But they are cautionary tales of the dark side of technological power.
As far as immersives go, I really appreciate the work JFI Productions does with the CREEP experiences and also the stuff ALONE puts on. Immersives that focus on atmosphere, tone, mood, and creating a distinct ‘feel’ while allowing the audience to play a major role within the story are what impress me most. It forces audiences to think, question and evaluate, as well as be actively present in a way that really resonates.
HorrorBuzz: Though there are hints of dystopia in this, I assume there is a spirit of hope attached to the story. Why do you think it’s important to make audiences question their own life choices through these shows? What do you hope they change about their own lives beyond it?
Ben Cox: You’re correct, there’s definitely a spirit of hope. I think it can be very easy for people to get stuck in a rut or routine or just feel like they’ve become a cog in the machine. I hope audiences walk out of our experiences reminded that they, in fact, do have power and choice over the lives they lead and the direction they want their lives to go. Fear is one of the strongest weapons of control. Fear is a paralyzing force and it is being implemented by the ‘powers that be’ far too effectively these days in our society. When people are empowered and reminded of their own ability to choose the life they create for themselves, the possibilities of what they are capable of open up in ways they may have never noticed or have forgotten.
HorrorBuzz: Can you explain the reasoning behind the two shows: why is one solo and the other group based? How does your story serve both?
Ben Cox: TOUCH and INCARNATION are stylistically very different experiences, despite some overlap and being set in the same world. INCARNATION is a very intimate, abstract and potent experience that focuses on allowing the guest to experience the world with an awareness of all five senses. TOUCH is a full-length production for small audiences where you are essentially invited to a party – a secret meeting of the Body Electric where they have the chance to celebrate and embrace freedom.
I wanted to create very distinct ways for audiences to experience the ‘TOUCH world.’ You don’t have to experience both TOUCH and INCARNATION to understand the story, so to speak, but for those who do attend both experiences, they will definitely get a unique experience at each event. TOUCH and INCARNATION are both designed to be stand-alone events.
HorrorBuzz: Engaging the senses, let alone all five, is difficult in everyday life. Without revealing too much, how do you plan to make audiences use them all in your shows?
Ben Cox: We very often do not consciously pay attention to how we use all five senses to engage with the world. By taking audiences on what we refer to in the shows as a ‘sensorial journey,’ we can isolate focus to each sense individually and allow for a greater awareness of how we experience things through our senses. Most people go and ‘see a show.’ But what happens when you not only see, but hear, smell, taste, and touch a show?
HorrorBuzz: Do you have prior experience in immersive theater?
Ben Cox: I have been producing various productions for well over a decade, but most of my work tended to be more traditional theatre. Over the last few years I have been drawn more and more to experimental, avant garde and immersive work. Having experienced a variety of different types of immersives, I really feel like there is something very captivating about that type of work. I love immersive experiences and am thrilled to see the variety of productions that have been popping up over the past few years. I also have a performance background as well as directing, having worked in theatre and as a haunt performer.
I have created immersive aspects and elements in prior work, but I’m excited to finally be creating a full-fledged immersive experience with TOUCH and INCARNATION. In these productions, we play with conventions of both traditional theatre and immersive performance and ultimately seek to create something that is a wholly unique experience that will stick with people long after they exit the venue.
Thank you, Ben, for your time!
TOUCH: INCARNATION will take place August 23 & 24 and September 13 & 14. Tickets are $35.
TOUCH will take place September 27-29, October 4-6, 11-13 and 18-20. Tickets go on sale in August.
For more information, and to buy tickets, visit: www.touchimmersive.com