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Friday, September 25, 2020
LA: The L.A. River Is About To Become An Immersive Epicenter
by NoPro Newswire | Sep, 2020 | No Proscenium: The Guide To Everything Immersive: The nonprofit River LA, which works “ to bring people, water and nature together along all 51 miles of the Los Angeles River” has brought on experiential arts veteran Mikhael Tara Garver to head up a new multi-year initiative “Rio Reveals,” which gets its start next month with a media preview, followed by the public-facing Rio Records, “which combines art, music, history, design and storytelling into a collaborative, immersive online adventure for 100 guests per interactive performance.
Posted by David at 9/25/2020 11:23:00 AM
Labels: Immersive Theatre, Outdoor Entertainment, Reopening
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Rio Records seems to be a cool idea but I’m kind of shocked that something in California is looking to do something in person in November as there is a predicted spike in COVID-19 cases as flu season comes upon and California seems like a state that is smart enough to close things down (I believe they already have tightened restrictions after loosening them) that this might be shut down. What happened in England where there was a spike and then the government said no more than 6 people can gather, threatening to shut down West End Productions that was slated to happen, could happen to Rio Records. I think until there is a vaccine that the majority of the population has, we need to keep planning in a digital modality. Yes, some people will be upset but we have to protect others. It is irresponsible to be doing things in person, especially with a crowd of 100 people. I love this idea of being outside by the river, but I don’t know if it is actually mitigating risk. Just because numbers are down doesn’t mean we stop mitigating risk. If we stop trying to be cautious, we will cause spikes. Theatres if they open pre-vaccine could cause spikes and be the reason that they can’t open in person for even longer, which would be sad. Also, seeing the word interactive and immersive is a little scary when we need to be trying to limit the number of interactions between people.
This article made me think in a lot of different ways, both good and bad ones. I think the idea itself is fascinating. However, I concerned about the timing (I understand their goal, but “experience” shouldn’t be the most prioritized need at this type of pandemic period), and the whole human intervention with the nature. Whenever I encounter these articles, I think of whether if it is really necessary for human to keep on trying to produce a hybrid (technological but also sustainable) performances. Cultivating environment to protect environment (what they are ultimately doing right now) seems a bit paradoxical without the detailed information regarding the technologies that they are going to use. I like how their missions embed the revitalization of the environments and it seems like they are aware of the necessity for environment to be protected, but I think it would have been better if they included HOW they would actually do that.
I thought at first that the early access for media and donors was like a preview, but upon reading further I realized that while they will be in-person at the event, the public performances are online only. The organization has been charged with providing underserved communities with improved access to arts and recreation, but they are providing what appears to be a superior experience to an exclusive audience. Maybe the online version is the better one, but from what I know of these sorts of invite-only events, that is unlikely to be the case. Maybe the volume of donors and media that they’re trying to reach is so large that they needed to create and announce a titled event, but from the outside it seems like they have created a pay to play barrier that excludes the local communities in question. It is impossible to tell what the event actually is anyway, because the press release is incredibly vague.
I am very pleased to discover that work is being done to revitalize the LA river, and that the work is lead by Garver, who has proven herself in the immersive entertainment sector. I have heard great things about Sleep No More and I am sure that Rio Reveals will be just as successful. It really does take outside the box thinking like the kind involved with immersive theater to discover ways of creating entertainment that safe during a pandemic. Also, between this and the multi-arts complex designed by Frank Gehry, this can be a great opportunity to spread the cultural and artistic scene outside just Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Also, I discovered while reading this article that I grew up 15 minutes from the LA river and never realized that it was the LA river. If you’ve seen Grease, it looks like the car race seen and in mind that doesn’t say river.
This is super interesting: River LA is putting on River Records as part of their “Rio Reveals” multi-year project. It will be interesting to see how this goes COVID-wise, as the previews for media and donors are October 23rd-26th in person, but it is open to the public for online interaction starting November 19th. River LA is focused on community benefit, improved public spaces, and integrating design to bring it all together along the entirety of the LA River, which I think is even more important now. We spend so much more time outside to see people from a safe social distance, and I think many of us need more art and entertainment to engage with now more than ever. I really like to see that they are drawing from community talent to bring this together- I’m excited to see where this goes beyond River Records in the future.
Growing up in the area, it is amazing to see how much the LA River and adjacent area had been changing. Not that long ago, the LA River was an absolute dump. The area directly adjacent to the LA River in the area I grew up was always over grown and full of litter. As unfortunate as it is, it was often a place that many homeless individuals would live. On top of this, the river itself doesn't have much water in it during much of the year. In the area I grew up in, people called it the LA trickle. Since then, I have watched the area around the basin be transformed into beautiful walking and biking paths, as well as an area for wildlife to call home. These new arts initiative seem like something that adds just that much more to the area. I'm sure the new initiatives will be welcomed with open arms and provide a way for people to get out during the pandemic.
I am so glad people are prioritizing bringing the arts to the LA River. That was never an area I wanted to go visit until I went to the Frogtown Art Walk. Similarly to the River LA project, Frogtown brought together a ton of local artists, musicians, and art installations along the LA River. I even bought my first piece of art there. It was amazing how they were not only able to transform the space, but also my perception of the river as a whole. I remember going under a freeway to see a video projected along with a soundscape. I felt transported. That’s why I’m really hoping for the best with this new project, even with my COVID concerns. I’m excited to see the positive change that LA River wants to bring to the area to create a stronger and more vibrant community.
It’s so interesting to see the LA river shift into a place that people actually want to go to. That being said I think an immersive experience like this could be a great addition to the area. This kind of experience is also something that I think is essential for us to think about when opening back up during Coivd-19. Immersive and experimental theatre’s just like this is where we are going to get ideas for the rest of the industry to start brining better art to our audiences in these trying times. With and in person and online component this sort of approach to an arts experience is one that I haven’t personally experience but am excited to learn more about as these become more of the norms. Adding to the LA river and changing the way we think about art is a lot for one company to undertake but it seems like they are trying to do it in small enough chunks and I am excited to see what comes out of it as they progress.
I feel like whenever I’m scrolling through this page, I always stop and check out what new cool and immersive experiences are coming out. I am not from LA and am not really familiar with the area, but from looking at some of my classmates' comments that are from LA, they’re all giving positive responses to the fact that LARiver is changing and changing for the better. I think it’s also kinda nice that people are still trying to create things that are exciting or that would be exciting to the average person, if the pandemic wasn’t a thing. Obviously there are better and smarter things to invest money into right now, but also this is continuing to make art in some way and continuing to produce new and interesting things. I feel like there might be some backlash to this though because it is not necessary to the pandemic but I feel like it will definitely bring some people joy.
This project made me think about how important it is to take the time to make a physical artistic experience accessible remotely during the creation process, and not as an afterthought. Bootlegs, for example, are condemned by theatre professionals, because they are an illegal, nonconsensual plagiarism (in a way) of art that is meant to be seen LIVE for so many reasons. However, this art is only accessible internationally to the upper class. And it is accessible locally only to the middle class. Broadway tickets are expensive for many people, especially for many people who live near and around New York City. Sure, there are lotteries- but those tickets usually go to fans of the shows who have already seen it many times. And anyone who doesn’t live near NYC has no chance of seeing those shows unless they have a surplus of disposable income to spend on travel. When an original show premieres on Broadway, it can take years for national tours to develop, not to mention international tours and productions. And when these international experiences do happen, they are almost exclusively located in the UK and Australia. So still, these productions are marketing towards wealthier (and not coincidentally whiter) communities, rather than working to make them more accessible to lower income and underprivileged communities. If all live works were to begin conception with the idea that they would also be accessible virtually, while maintaining as much authenticity of the work as possible, there might not be any need for bootlegs anymore. And how wonderful would it be if theatre could inspire and be enjoyed by the 7.8 billion people around the world? What a world it could be.
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