BWW Review: Immerse Yourself in the Magic of PERFORMANCE PARK

BWW Review: Immerse Yourself in the Magic of PERFORMANCE PARK

PERFORMANCE PARK is an interactive and immersive theatre piece, conceived and directed by Bonnie Cullum, that transforms the Vortex compound into a choose-your-own-experience environment where you are free to wander and pick what you will watch, what games you will play and the order in which you experience them. It is entirely unlike most other theatrical experiences in that you have the option to take a break to digest what you have seen and try to figure out what it all means and what you should do next.

The largest scale undertaking ever seen at The Vortex, PERFORMANCE PARK ushers the evening's participants (only a finite number of participants are admitted at each of the five starting times) into a world of multi-layered games to win, puzzles to solve, music, dance and mystery. As you explore the various stories along the way, you will encounter iconic characters from the Tarot who you will work with "to disrupt hierarchies of power and restore balance". While PERFORMANCE PARK is, essentially, an interactive totem gathering game, it is also full of original music, art and magic. Participants are welcome to dress in their own costumes if they wish and to take in as much or as little of the offerings as they wish from as up close or as far away as they choose. As you work to unlock the mysteries you have the option to play games on the Midway, or maybe you want to sing a song in the bar. There's even a Magician's Sanctum, if you know the right way to seek entry.

Featuring a cast of 28 performing on 9 sets (stunningly created by scenic designers Ann Marie Gordon and Griffon Ramsey) to 4 separate sound plots, PERFORMANCE PARK is absolutely magical. Director Bonnie Cullum, who also conceived this piece, has created an experience that seamlessly weaves together game theory, immersive performance and audience participation. Once you check in and become a "citizen", you are given your toolkit and directed to The Fool (Alex Cogburn) who will give you instructions on how to begin your quest. Your first stop is The Lovers (Marliza Mendez and Traci Laird) who will help you choose your outfit and mask as well as guide you in picking which tribe you belong to, which are all based on the suites of The Tarot. From there, your adventure is of your choosing. If you choose to play games on the Midway, you have the opportunity to make a deal with the Devil (Trey Deason). Or you can visit the Hanged One (Micah Gause), or walk into the Wild to talk with the Hermit (Heidi Penix), watch Temperance (Patricia Wappner) create a potion, or visit Baba Yaga's (Melissa Vogt) Hut. If you need advice or guidance, you can consult the Tower (Andy Agne). And if you can, try to wrangle an invitation to the Emperor's (Gabriel Maldonado) Table where he and the Empress (Tiffany Nicely-Williams) invite the citizens in attendance to share food. Something important to the forward action happens here, but I'm not about to spoil the fun. Just keep in mind that the more you interact with and talk with the characters, the more information they will reveal about the mythology.The moments you spend talking to them is important to playing the game.

Throughout the experience, there is beautiful original music performed that is written by Chad Salvata, Tyler Mabry, David DeMaris and Sergio R. Samayoa with original choreography by Toni Bravo. The performers are outfitted with gorgeous costumes designed by Pam Fletcher Friday that are revitalized from 30 years of Vortex productions. The lighting design by Patrick Anthony, is awash with color that is even underneath your feet in places. Kenneth Gall has also created some wonderful water effects for this experience.

PERFORMANCE PARK is not only a game, as Cullum has devised this as a work of art that also resonates with the current political climate with an eye to inspire thinking with a social consciousness. While Cullum considered the DNA of other immersive works such as Sleep No More and Then She Fell in the final stages of creating PERFORMANCE PARK, it is its own special creation that is full of magic ripe for the taking.

Everyone will have a different experience in PERFORMANCE PARK and no two visits will be the same. There is so much going on that it just isn't possible to experience everything in a single visit. I would advise you to pick one of the earliest times and to stay for the climax to fully enjoy this delicious, one of a kind experience. The goal of the game is to gather five totems on your journey. We were only able to gather four, but we still had an amazing time. This is a production that people will be talking about for years to come. I give PERFORMANCE PARK my highest recommendation and strongly advise you not to miss this experience.

PERFORMANCE PARK Conceived and Directed by Bonnie Cullum. Writing and dramaturgy by Sarah Saltwick, Lorella Loftus, Teresa Cruz, Bonnie Cullum, and the Ensemble. Original Music and Sound Design by Chad Salvata, David DeMaris, Tyler Mabry, and Sergio R. Samayoa. Choreography by Toni Bravo.

Running Time: Entirely up to individual participants, however to see the event to it's end, plan on approximately three hours.
Note: Wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking

PERFORMANCE PARK produced by The Vortex (2307 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722). Website:

BOX OFFICE: 512-478-5282. If calling earlier in the day, leave a message and the Box Office Manager will return your call. Hours: 4:30pm-8pm every performance date.

Dates: MARCH 23 - MAY 12, 2018, with staggered check-in times: 7:15, 7:30, 7:45, 8:00, 8:15 pm. ASL-Interpreted Saturday, April 7-- Free to deaf and hard-of- hearing audiences. Please note that the entry times vary. Limited admissions are available for each time slot. Advanced Reservations recommended to guarantee admission at your desired time.

Tickets are Toolkits which range in price from $35 - $15 with the following levels: $35 Oracle, $25 Expert, $15 Novice. A toolkit is required to maximize the experience of PERFORMANCE PARK. Oracles receive the most advanced information and perks. Blue Star Theatre: Discounts for Military, Veterans, and their families.
Radical Rush Free Tickets: Limited free tickets for each performance in the spirit of sustainability, accessibility, and the gift economy. Radical Rush tickets released at 7pm each night and are available in-person only.

PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Cogburn in "Performance Park" at Austin's VORTEX Repertory Company. (Photo by Errich Petersen)

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