With no end in sight to this pandemic, Rorschach Theatre has kicked off another multichapter, immersive, individualized experience for audiences called Chemical Exile. Only three months into the journey, Chemical Exile has already piqued my interest with the level of psychological abnormalities and unexpected twists in its narrative.
PSYCHOGEOGRAPHIES is Rorschach Theatre’s visionary new experience that takes participants to unexpected locations around their city while a season-long fictional narrative plays out over layers of history and magic realism. Guests receive a box in the mail monthly that includes a new chapter in the story, each box containing hand-crafted objects — letters, drawings, souvenirs, photos, or even snacks — and a map to a location in their city. The season ends with a live in-person event that culminates the story.
The first Psychogeographies series was Distance Frequencies, which launched in October of 2020 and ended with an outdoor live performance in July of 2021. The storyline shifts through different moments in time, slowly unfolding the account of a mysterious transom, a true love that society could not accept, and an alternate plane of existence outside of the real world, free from society’s judgment, assumptions, and expectations. (See my reviews of the monthly chapter boxes and the outdoor finale.)
I’ve now experienced the first two chapter boxes of Chemical Exile, and here are teasers I can tell you about the intriguing story so far.
The first box contains notes from a very confused woman named Teddy. She has recently returned to DC after a seven-year absence and is deeply disturbed by the changes she perceives to all of her usual haunts. Time and neglect make sense for some alterations, but her father’s missing grave is a complete shock.
Plus a mysterious man in a blue coat keeps popping up wherever she goes and then disappears. Is he tracking her movements? Or is she, perhaps, imagining him?
The second box offers more insight but also more questions. A recorded conversation with Teddy and her mom reveals that her father is actually alive (how is that possible? she remembers seeing his body). And a written transcript of a conversation with her brother, Frankie, calls even more of her memories into question.
There are many pages of Teddy’s research, which further disconnect her recollections of her youth from history: An article on a theater, which she visited many times before, that had a roof collapse and was completely destroyed before she was born. A clipping with reports of a roller rink being shut down years before she distinctly recalls being there. And again, the man in the blue jacket. Is there something wrong with the world she’s in? Or with her?
No guesses from me because part of the whole experience is piecing things together. But I am excited to see where the narrative goes.
I truly love this unique form of art, which allows so much flexibility in the ways the audience can consume the story. For those who prefer to follow along from home, virtual tours are available for the locations referenced in each box. And extra resources are provided to do a deeper dive into the history of the city sites.
Rorschach Theatre’s Psychogeographies excite the mind and ignite curiosity with unique storylines incorporating the fascinatingly rich history of DC. Chemical Exile promises to be a deeply thought-provoking journey; and as Rorschach consistently delivers original, complex, and engrossing material, I have no doubt that I will be taken by pleasurable surprise at its conclusion.
Running Time: Experienced on your own time. Boxes are mailed monthly.
Chemical Exile: A Psychogeographies Project will conclude with a live performance in July 2022. Participants can join at any time and will be sent the chapters they missed. Subscriptions for Chemical Exile are $175 and are on sale now online. Each purchase includes seven boxes by mail and one ticket for the in-person summer performance. Additional tickets for the live performance will be available in spring 2022. (If you missed Distance Frequencies, that series is still available for purchase.) For more information and a link to FAQs go to rorschachtheatre.com/
CREATED BY Randy Baker, Kylos Brannon, Jenny McConnell Frederick, Shayla Roland, and Jonelle Walker
Additional Collaborators include Kat Kirkman, Roc Lee, John Ralls, Deidra Starnes, Tyasia Velines
Rorschach Theatre plots next immersive story, ‘Chemical Exile’ (news story about the second Psychogeographies Project, October 6, 2021)
Rorschach Theatre hits the jackpot with immersive ‘Distance Frequencies’ (review of the first Psychogeographies Project by Kendall Mostafavi)
Rorschach’s enchanting ‘Distance Frequencies’ ends in beauty and love (review of the first Psychogeographies Project in-person culminating event by Kendall Mostafavi)