Stardust: An Immersive Theatre Experience
Produced by Anahita Dalmia
As experienced in Los Angeles ~ November 2022
The Experience & How it Works:
You arrive at a venue in Los Angeles and after showing your tickets and masking up are invited to grab a drink at the bar (included) and also complete a survey (accessed by QR code) that will help you determine which story path you may want to follow.
Why it’s Interesting, IMHO:
IRL immersive narratives are always fascinating. They generally ask real adults to play make believe for an evening and they take on the storytelling challenge of how to script a narrative and also allow the audience to participate. This is possible and challenging to do well.
Initial Impression & Critical Discussion:
One of the common pitfalls of immersive narrative experiences is that it can be hard for attendees to know where to go or what to do in order to have a satisfying story experience. They’re often given the ability to roam freely and first-timers generally don’t have inside knowledge about the show. The survey shared with attendees upon arrival did a nice job of addressing that problem by suggesting, based on the attendees answers, which character(s) they may enjoy following. (Note: A fellow attendee suspects, based on our respective answers, that only one of the survey questions impacts the recommendation; the author cannot confirm whether or not this is true.)
In my case, the survey suggested two characters I might be interested in following, which allowed me, when the experience began, to have an objective: locate one of those two characters. That was incredibly helpful as I otherwise would have been wandering around eavesdropping on people trying to figure out where best to go and what to do.
The experience as I progressed through it had a significant amount of opportunities for audience participation, from helping one character find another to working with others on a scavenger hunt to participating in a dance. These were among my favorite parts of the experience; I had agency and got to work with others. As a whole, the characters were engaging — literally engaging you in conversation when approached — and the stakes seemed somewhat high, if a bit incomprehensible.
The way that the stories worked was that the audience participates in helping the characters find a resolution to their story, but at the end, each of the characters ultimately has to make a decision. The overall conceit is creatively fantastical; as such, it may make it challenging for some audience members to truly understand the consequences of the decision of the character and, without a clear sense of the stakes, it can be harder for an audience member to truly be invested in the outcome.
Experiential Viewpoint Expression (E.V.E.):
Embodied, 1st person visual, 1st person narrative, participant, mortal
When you learn that guests of the Hotel Dion have lost their memories, you work with other participants to help the guests regain their memories, and then the characters are faced with a decision that determines whether or not they will return to the life you’ve helped them remember.
Pillars of Game:
Voluntary Participation — check!
Goal — To complete the scavenger hunt. (This was part of a story I followed; there may or may not have been other goals).
Rules —Use each clue to find the next clue. You can search anywhere in the experience’s location.
Feedback — You know you’ve succeeded when you’ve found the next/final clue.
Conclusion: Depending on the narrative branches you hang on, this experience has the potential to be both story and game.
Who Should Experience This?
Someone who enjoys a dose of magical realism and is excited for an unconventional, interactive experience that is largely self-driven within the parameters and various theatrical offerings of the show.