A World Without Barriers? Enter iConsciousness

STRATA is one of the newest pieces of interactive explorative theatre to hit the U.S. scene, specifically taking Pittsburgh by storm as of August 2012.

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Turning the traditional model on its head, the creators ensured that the main character was the audience and required them to unmask their anonymity to become “participants” in the experience. As one reviewer Sean Collier explains: “When you buy admittance to STRATA – the Strategic Training Research and Testing Agency – you’ll receive an email with further instructions, including a questionnaire to fill out, directions to a rendezvous point and a stern request not to look at any birds. From there, the STRATA team will guide you through a “refitnessing,” in pursuit of “iConsciousness”…you’ll be sent on a personal journey through a hidden downtown locations, mostly alone and intimately involved in the story that unfolds…Depending on how your journey progresses, the experience can be touching, disturbing, shocking, affirming, inspiring – but no matter what, it’ll land like a knockout punch. It’s a very unusual thing to find yourself wandering around through a world catered for you and crafted down to the smallest detail. if you ever wanted to live out a waking dream, this is your chance.”

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Early in their marketing development, the creators decided to cultivate an anti-campaign to pair against the STRATA’s Gate Corporation pro-iConsciousness movement. This campaign helped to give the Gate Corporation its depth, for it would have had to exist for a number of decades for a resistance movement to develop. The “Anti- Gate” marketing movement would distress the hundreds of posters from the show that popped up everywhere downtown. And a fictional campaign leader “Rob Clifton”  led an anti-campaign on Twitter with such succinct messages as “don’t believe the lies.”

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The result is a theatrical experience that unnerves but enhances, that pushes its participants far out of their comfort zone and into deeper realms. And with such inspired marketing to match, it makes you curious enough to want to check out STRATA for yourself.

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Welcome to STRATA. 

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No theatre? No problem.

Don’t have a traditional theatre on hand? More and more groups seem to be saying “that’s alright, we’ll make do” and seeking out alternative theatre spaces. And I have to say, I love this trend. A production of The Tempest staged steps away from the ocean,  Halloween-themed shows performed in a cemetery, even promenade plays that invite audiences to walk along the streets of a town and experience a theatrical event in an incredibly immersive fashion. A notable example is the NYC production, Sleep No More, which took a few abandoned warehouses and created “the McKintrick Hotel,” a 1930s setting for a multi-story recreation of MacBeth. Audience members don masks and follow the action of not only the Shakespeare original, but also what precedes and follows the story of Mac as we know it.

An immaculate amount of detail, room after room of embellishments and the result? A macabre and innovative manner of storytelling that invites the audience to be a part of its unsettling nature.

Images by Sara Krulwich