Theatre Obscura 

Factory Obscura offers two theatrical productions inside Mix-Tape By Adrienne Proctor

click to enlarge BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green

“It’s an immersive art collective, almost like an adult playground,” Ronn Burton said, describing the art installation that is Factory Obscura. The permanent space, 25 NW 9th St., is home to Mix- Tape, the third installment for the experimental art experience and walk-through exhibit. Factory Obscura was formed in 2017, with immersive art and collaborative creation as their focus. With this concept in mind, Burton as- sembled a team of artists and creators to devise a new show. Burton is the director and lead creative behind Mix-Tape: Unraveled, an immersive theatre piece that’s inspired by and housed inside the Mix-Tape exhibit.

Unraveled, like the whole of Mix- Tape, is immersive, “choose your own adventure”-style art. Immersive and interactive theatre are not quite the same, although they’re often used interchangeably. Immersive theatre means the audience is fully immersed inside the story. This often includes elaborate sets, non-traditional seating, and up close views of the show. Interactive theatre means that patrons are a part of the story. This style of theatre usually involves audiences and performers interacting with one another. It can also mean audience participation is used to enhance or further the storyline. Unraveled incorporates both elements, relying on audience participation while bringing patrons into the world of the show.

Truly immersive theatre is rarely seen in Oklahoma City, and with COVID-19 fears, it’s produced even less now. But it’s a rich and vibrant way to experience theatre, and we need more of it in Oklahoma City. Unraveled follows in the footsteps of popular immersive theatrical experiences around the country, like New York’s Sleep No More and Then She Fell, and Chicago’s Southern Gothic.

Burton has devised theatre for Factory Obscura previously, starting with Those Who Lie Beyond in 2018, and a 2020 show that hit the cutting room floor with the rest of our plans last year. “Unraveled is much more collaborative than my previous show.” Burton said. “There are fourteen people in the cast and there are a lot more moving parts. The Mix- Tape exhibit is the in- spiration, and we’re devising this show together as a cast.”

Devising is a new concept from the typical script writing process. It’s more collaborative and organic than a traditional play or musical book.

“Most theatre is written by one guy sitting in a coffee shop. Then the actors are handed a script to memorize.” Burton explained. “This is a different creative process. It’s been completely democratic.” Burton promises a 1980s themed musical, with recognizable tunes and original numbers mixed in throughout the performance. Patrons will walk through the show, exploring and experiencing the world of the work. Burton adds that there will be “opportunities to get involved” as the patrons navigate the musical and choose which way to go next. “Patrons can wander as they choose, or even pick one character to follow around. It’s really up to each person and what they decide in the moment,” Burton said.

Immersive theatre is not just experimental, but it also frees up some creative challenges for theatre-makers. With immersive works, gone is the need for a big theatrical space, chairs, or a stage. Bringing the audience into the action makes them really a part of the world. It can be daunting, thinking about walking around in a performance space and watching actors recite their lines mere inches from you. But, level of participation is completely up to the individual viewer.

“Everyone will experience this show differently,” explained Burton. “Not everyone will see the story in the same order. One person may see a scene as a flashback, another as a flash ahead. There may even be one-on-one moments between actor and patron. Every experience will be unique, because in order to tell the story, we need the audience there and involved.”

click to enlarge Katie Thayer & Manuel Solis-Bauza in Consciousness - PHOTO PROVIDED THEATRE CRUDE
  • Photo provided Theatre Crude
  • Katie Thayer & Manuel Solis-Bauza in Consciousness

Unraveled follows Factory Obscura’s early October theatre event, the annual Theatre Crude Fringe Festival. This is the third year for the theatre festival, which was founded in 2019 by Adam and Jenny Brand. Theatre Crude went completely virtual in the wake of COVID-19 in 2020. This year, it’s back for both onsite events at the Factory Obscura space, as well as virtual pro- ductions. Theatre Crude Fringe Festival provides a lot of theatre for a little commitment. Writers and performers get a chance to debut new material at the workshop level without budget restraints that normally come with producing theatre. Audiences are extremely vital to the development of live works, and both the creators and patrons benefit from seeing theatre at this level. Patrons are treated to one-hour or less performances of new theatrical works, and experimental artists get a footing in the world of theatre production.

This year’s ten-day festival includes twenty shows in various genres, from the typical drama, comedy, and dance to the more “fringe” styles of mentalism, fantasy, puppet shows, and even clown performance. There’s something for everyone and the festival experience adds to this unique presentation style.

Factory Obscura is an art installation by the creative and eclectic, and it’s a place where everyone feels welcome. Theatre Crude Fringe Festival and Mix- Tape: Unraveled are collaborative and experimental, and they’re set in the backdrop of the beautifully intriguing Mix-Tape exhibit. It’s only fitting that the vibrant, inclusive art and live performance would blend to create new and exciting experiences for Oklahoma City patrons. October is going to be weird and wild inside Mix-Tape.

Theatre Crude Fringe Festival runs October 1 – 10. Flex passes are available now and can be purchased at theatrecrude.org.

Mix-Tape: Unraveled runs October 14 – 31. For tickets and more info, visit factoryobscura.com.

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