In 1994, three college students filming a documentary disappeared in the woods outside of Burkittsville, Maryland.
In 1999, their footage was shared with the public at large, along with a host of forgotten legends surrounding the Black Hills Forest and the so-called “Blair Witch.”
None of this, of course, is real.
And, yet, despite two film sequels that failed to live up to the legacy of the original The Blair Witch Project and its groundbreaking marketing campaign, one which summoned an American folk tale out of whole cloth, the allure of the Blair Witch “legend” remains.
I should know. I was one of those people who was entranced by the initial appearance of the Blair Witch and its attendant books, TV special, and seemingly endless twisting mysteries, which seemed to have been waiting for us all to discover them. In the years since, I’ve kept an arm’s length distance from the attempted revivals until I’ve heard others’ reactions. The later movies are still unwatched. It’s a different relationship than what I have to, say Batman or Star Wars. I’ll dive right into the worst versions of those things on day one without a moment’s hesitation. …
Before the main show even started, I was charmed.
I don’t want to give away how or even what caused this reaction — hell, even talking about the fact that I had the reaction at all is a kind of giveaway — but it bears noting because so much of the current online immersive theatrical offerings seem resigned to Zoom as a necessary evil whose platform idiosyncrasies are just something we have to live with.
Yet for all that Zoom has become ubiquitous in the lives of those privileged enough to have Internet access in the pandemic age (oh, look, that’s you too), it has also lost any of its novelty. There’s nothing magical about Zoom, but in the right hands it can become a pliant tool still capable delivering an engaging evening that one could never have from binge watching Lava Bakers or Oops, The Tiger Is Loose on Netflix. …
When you strip away all the bells and whistles, all the cutting edge technology and elaborate lore building, what makes an immersive work or not is the fidelity of the connection. The connection between the participant and the world that is being offered up for them to embrace.
In immersive theatre — whether that takes place in physical space or in a video chat (or some other technological terror) — that connection almost always comes down to the performer holding the other end of the line.
I don’t want to say too much about Secret Thing Presents: Out There, because what story there is to the experience hinges on reveals which — whether you see them coming or not — are deployed in such a way as to become a delicately reflective moment. The immersive world’s equivalent of the emotional high wire act. And there one the tightrope, high above the silent arena with you, is actor/creator Shayne Eastin. …