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Arts and Entertainment

You Can Now Buy Tickets To Experience Your Own Death In A New Immersive Play

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You can now buy tickets to experience your own death. Screenshot Productions—who previously brought us works like Parturition, Shoshin and the ongoing Das Gericht—are back with two new, immersive shows.
Screenshot Productions is one of this writer's favorite immersive theatre groups. They've sent me wandering around candlelit paths in search of enlightenment, freed me from what was apparently my own oppressive umbilical cord, and once stopped by to hide various phrases printed on scraps of paper all over my house. I just found another one in a box of protein bars last week.

In September, they will present Bardo Thodol, in which you will die. Well, not really. In this show, you will accompany your soul as you face judgement in the afterlife. Similar to the Tension Experience (that's the upcoming haunted house that might be a cult that leaves me threatening voicemails), attendees will be asked to fill out a questionnaire prior to the performance so that each experience will be tailored to each individual guest. And as with many of Screenshot’s productions, audience members will go through the performance alone—sort of like death itself, if you think about it. It is a fitting theme for Screenshot, considering that their Parturition show was meant to recreate your birth, from exiting the womb, to that aforementioned umbilical cord experience, to being warmly welcomed into the world by your mother.

Bardo Thodol, or the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is your guide to the bardo (meaning "intermediate state"), which is the space between the death of your body and your next incarnation. In the first act of Bardo Thodol, which took place at horror convention Midsummer Scream in Long Beach last month, audience members were led through a simulated death, which included being buried.

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"For the remaining Acts (all staged together at a singular venue) the audience member will find themselves in the state between death and reincarnation where they will be challenged to look back on their life and within themselves to recognize the nature of their mind and attain liberation for the cycle of rebirth," creator Nicholas Sherwin said.

As the haunt/immersive genre has expanded in Los Angeles, some have spun off into more beautiful, existential meanderings, like Alone. Others, however, like Blackout and Heretic House, tend to be more physically violent and awfully messy. Sherwin tells us these upcoming shows will continue to favor psychological unease over physical violence, but that their October show, The Rope, is the "darkest and most physically intense show" they've put on yet.

In the The Rope, you will be thrust into a grim, alternate world where you will encounter a number of different characters and obstacles along the way. Your own character is an "unnamed champion," and you have the choice to either destroy the terrible world you're exploring or inherit it. The outcome of your experience will depend on the choices you make.

"There are multiple paths, secret passageways and various endings depending on how the audience member behaves, and we look forward to seeing what each person discovers in each of their journeys," Sherwin said.

This particular show was inspired by video games including Dark Souls and titles from TellTale Games' catalogue.

Screenshot did a mini-version of The Rope at yet another horror convention, ScareLA, this past weekend, which I was able to attend. I was given an eye mask and was blindly led into a dark room by a cloaked figure. Here, I was handed a piece of rope and allowed to follow it at my own risk. Carefully moving through the dark with only the frayed rope to guide me, I was soon stopped by a man who shone a light in my face and warned me about the horrors to come. He said we might meet again and if we did, he'd help me. He slipped a token into my hand and permitted me to continue. I followed the rope further until I was ultimately stopped by a man who removed my blindfold and helped me escape through a small tunnel, which, after a small amount of crawling, led to the exit. The token revealed itself to be a small wooden circle with an eyeball on it. In just this brief teaser, I got the sense of being in a bad place where people were not just physically trapped, but eternally trapped, like a Hell, but more fantastical. It actually did remind me of a specific video game—a point-and-click called Tormentum—so it made perfect sense to hear that similar games influenced the narrative.

Tickets for both shows are on sale now. If you think you might like to dip a toe in a piece of interactive immersive theater, Screenshot is a great place to start. Rich narratives, highly personal interactions with actors, and their simple, yet effective (and often very pretty) set designs manage to create atmospheric worlds that make you forget the real one for a while.

Bardo Thodol takes place September 2 through 30. Tickets are $50. The Rope takes place October 1 through 31. Tickets are $65.