STRATA: Pittsburgh’s First Refitnessing Center (Review)
Editor’s Note: This is a two part/two perspective, husband/wife review from Ryan and Trina.
*Full Disclosure: I’m not a theatre guy. I don’t particularly understand or enjoy installation art and most of my time in museums is spent not-so-silently judging the people who get all in a tizzy by some abstract art my 6 year old Goddaughter could do. I love movies but always feel distracted when it comes to live performances. I haven’t been in one since my 8th grade Christmas Pageant. So with that background, I went to STRATA: Pittsburgh’s First Refitnessing Center, a new production by Bricolage Theatre (Burgh Verified).
My tickets/instructions came via e-mail with a survey and a video with some directives. They were somewhat obscure. Talk to a man in a hat. Ask a secret question. Don’t look at birds. I was already out of my comfort zone. I love to look at birds. In truth, the whole thing was making me nervous. Two days prior and my stomach was flip-flopping with anxiety and excitement thinking about this damned adventure. The look on my wife’s face while she viewed the introduction video was priceless. She looked at her computer, then looked at me, then back at the computer, and then back at me. Her face was saying, “What the fuck have you gotten us into?”
With good reason. I left my “Refitnessing” event courtesy of Strata not knowing for sure if I had reached iConsciousness and not knowing if I enjoyed myself or hated it. I left not really sure of anything, and that seemed okay. The only way to describe Bricolage’s Strata Corporation event is to say that it is a true, honest to goodness experience. If you’re looking for art to happen in front of you, to entertain you and please you visually but not be involved in its creation, then refitnessing is not for you. You’ll never reach a level of iConsciousness worthy of the experience. Bricolage has found a way to make your experience completely unique. By integrating your choices, the choices of those around you and that of the performers, your journey through this created world will be unlike anyone else’s. Even different from the partner you bring along. Wife and I had almost no overlapping experiences until the end. It was as if we had the same ‘choose your own adventure’ book but chose to jump to all opposite pages, then somehow through the magic of theatre (and a team of performers and collaborators) we ended up in the same place.
During the two hours I spent on my refitnessing, I ran the gamut of emotions and used all 5 senses at least once. Nervousness, excitement, anxiety, discomfort, amusement, disgust, confusion, enjoyment – I felt all of those things in the moment. Afterwards, I mostly felt amazed that these performers are even able to put on an event of this magnitude from a logistical standpoint. My early cynicism’s were pushed aside by the appreciation I felt for considerable effort they put into providing a place to create an experience.
Go to Strata. You may love it. You may hate it. But I promise you it will be unlike any theatre experience you’ve ever had. Billed as being, “Somewhere between truth & fiction, reality & simulation,” the whole thing is an adventure, and even a day later Wife and I are still talking about it, still discussing what did or didn’t happen, still arguing about it. If you can sign up for the last showing at 9:00 PM do it. Following this time slot there is a brief refueling in which you’ll have a better than average chance to get some answers to some of the questions you will no doubt have (which may not happen at the earlier showings). Part of the success of this production is that the show begins the second you open the e-mail. From that point on, the things you do, see and hear can change your experience. Be on high alert.
The success of this production depends on you. Don’t let yourself down.
I don’t know WHO to direct this to. I don’t know WHAT to address in this review. I don’t know WHERE to start especially given the fact that I’m contractually bound by my ticket purchase to not disclose any of that information. I don’t know WHEN to advise you to go since I don’t know what demographic it could possibly be geared towards. And all of this brings me to the point of HOW I’m going to continue this.
This was one of the most unique, puzzling, unpredictable, bewildering, confusing, fun, uncomfortable and mind-rattling experiences I’ve had in my life thus far. My Husband asked me if I enjoyed it when I came out and I hadn’t a clue how to answer.
Did I like it? I think so, yeah.
Was it positive or negative? Both maybe?
Would I do it again? Yes.
Would I recommend it to others? Yes.
My immediate internal reactions were: So what’s my score? How did I do? How many points did I get? Well…I did not get a score. I was not told how I did. I was not given a value. I wasn’t a winner or a loser or otherwise.
All I wanted to do was call my previous Sociology Professor to rant on about it. I was left there to marinate in my own thoughts and questions and confusion.
I admit that I am not someone that deals well with open-ended… endings. Those awesome movies you see that end it with a non-end ending with zero resolution? I dismiss those immediately and regardless of the incredible amazingness that movie provided me in its entirety prior to the last five minutes, I’m no longer a fan. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I feel incomplete as a human being and it makes me angry that the director would do that to me.
Strata felt like a giant social experiment. After coming out of it my curiosity was piqued. I had questions. And although I couldn’t tell my Husband if it was a good or bad experience, we found that two hours had passed afterwards and we were still talking about it. We were split up in the first 15 minutes of event, only to see each other once in passing and then at the end. It reminded me of coming out of the movie ‘Crash’. We both sat in the theatre, staring blankly ahead of us until the screen went black. Neither of us said a word during, nor did we make eye contact. Then finally, one of us let out a “Shiiiiiiiiit…”. To which the other responded “Yeah, I don’t even know”.
I did have the ability to experience something that most participants might not, and sit down with one of the creators and some of the actors in the production. Although this gave me no answers to any of my questions, any scores to my performance, or any insight as to how I compared to the hundreds of others that did this, it was interesting to hear of the variety of reactions these professionals get by the participants and how it challenges them as actors to run with it and modify as necessary.
- Your decisions make your future. Or they don’t.
- Birds should not be looked at for some unknown and obscure reason.
- React as you would naturally.
- Stay on your toes and be on high alert at all times.
- Your senses will be amplified. Your thoughts will be messed with. And your morals and ethics questioned.
- Wear loose clothing.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Count everything, watch everything around you, note colors and people and actions and conversations and sounds.
- Don’t ask questions.
- Leave everything in your locker.
- Keep your promises.
- Do this. It’s worth it.
If you’ve read this review and are thoroughly confused yet unexplainably intrigued, then you are ready to be Refitnessed. God speed!