A mysterious adventure, Bricolage Production Company’s latest immersive experience, DODO, challenges the idea of traditional theater by taking the audience member by on an individualized, sensory-based journey that places them at the center of the experience. From the time the show was announced, details about the experience were kept largely under wraps. Created in collaboration with the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the production’s vague show description made mention of extinction, un-natural selection, and a secret society, but little else, creating a sense of mystery and allure around the immersive.
The journey begins upon purchasing a ticket to the show. Shortly after reserving my ticket, I received an email confirming my application to a secret society, known as The National Self Preservation Society, had been received and was under review.
Once I arrived at the Carnegie Museums, a large illuminated sign that read Portal Entry was clearly visible from the parking lot. Bricolage used simple, nondescript signage throughout the production, which allowed the museum to truly act as the host body. The art and artifacts inside the museum were used to create context during the adventure, rather than elaborate set design. Once I checked in, along with the five other participants in my time slot, our journey continued.
We entered the Carnegie Museums on the side of the building, through what appeared to be an employee-only entry point and were met by a character wearing a hazmat-esque suit and a gas mask. After determining we were all fit to enter the next room, he stripped his protective clothing revealing a suit with a large patch on his blazer indicating he was a member of The National Self Preservation Society. Serious and intentional, the society member informed us that our application to The National Self Preservation Society was the context for which our group was being accepted into the experience; the donor application process was about to begin. Before continuing on, each of us were called up to his desk, asked us a series of questions and given an item.
It was apparent that our answers to the questions were meant to inform which item we received, however, that didn’t seem to be the case. The lack of discernible connection between the answers we provided and the item we received made the interaction appear engineered rather guided by our individual responses.
After receiving our respective items, we made our way into one of the museum’s main exhibits halls, illuminated only by small floor lamps. We were met by a mysterious dream host dressed in all-white, loose fitting garments who spoke soft and slow. This character’s spiritual demeanor and dialogue made it apparent we had ventured into a different dimension that was operating outside the boundaries of time and reality.
My experience took me through multiple other darkened museum exhibits, via staircases and dimly-lit hallways reserved for employees and into a collection archive. Providing access to the areas of the museum normally off limits, coupled with the rooms with little prominent light helped reinforce the idea secrecy and the allure of an underground organization. The dark areas also emphasized the theme of extinction; once things are gone, they are lost forever.
As I traveled through the museum, I encountered an explorer and various other characters who made use of collections and exhibits to help tell their stories and draw connections between humanity and its impact on the natural world. While these characters were able to incorporate the museum’s art and artifacts into their dialogue in a way that made sense and was meaningful, it wasn’t always clearly explained who they were and why they were there. It was during these interactions in particular that it seemed less like I was a character in the immersive and more like someone just along for the ride.
The adventure culminates in a multi-sensory experience that intersects audio, light and touch to manipulate the senses. While the references and dialogue often had a dream-like quality, I didn’t feel fully immersed in a dream-state until this moment. The sensorial techniques used during this portion of the journey successfully made me feel as though I had truly been transported to another state in time. I think some of these techniques could have been utilized earlier in the experience to help drive home idea that the adventure was taking place in another realm.
Like with all of Bricolage Theater Company’s immersives, no two experiences are alike. There were multiple characters involved in the production that I did not encounter and just as many destinations I did not travel to. There’s still time to take a journey all your own with DODO.
DODO runs through November 19 in the evenings Wednesday through Sunday, with some exceptions. The experience only allows for six patrons per time slot. Tickets are $60 and can be purchased at www.BricolagePGH.org.
Photos by Handerson Gomes.