Dreams are the unifying universal driver of our human existence. Carl Jung, as he explained in The Collective Works, wrote that dreams “put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare from all egohood. It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises.” In the history of human expression, the idea of dreams is among the more venerable from the epic story of Gilgamesh to the Homerian epic of The Odyssey and Joseph’s dream in the telling of The Old Testament. Scientists, too, have begun to assemble compelling theoretical and empirical foundations outlining the neuropsychological implications of the human’s capacity to dream and the memories associated with the act of dreaming. Jung’s work, for example, focused on dreams as a unique human tool for coping with and ultimately resolving our deepest, most formidable personal conflicts.
Few humans resist opportunities to engage their imaginations when it comes to dreaming, meditating, and tapping into their subconscious and unconscious levels. Fantasy can be just as important as acknowledging reality in the most daunting challenge of our existence when we try to plumb what is holding us back in our emotions and our efforts to commit ourselves fully to a our own honest, fulfilling existence.
The Dreamscapes immersive art exhibit at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City, an impressive collaboration built and maintained by more than 100 individuals in the Utah creative community, is the setting for SONDERimmersive’s latest theatrical experience, The Carousel, which opens today and will continue through Nov. 24.
The Carousel is yet another in a series of immersive performance pieces by SONDERimmersive that previous has transformed a nightclub, a chocolatier’s business and a parking garage level into successful enterprising platforms for fascinating blends of theatrical movement, dialogue and soundscapes which put audience members in a unique perspective.
The Carousel, which also is produced with Utah Arts Alliance, originated with a concept by Rick Curtiss and was fleshed out into a script written by Graham Brown, in conjunction with the cast. Brown also set the dance movement featured in the work. In July, SONDERimmersive had planned to open a different show in Dreamscapes but ongoing concerns about the pandemic and social distancing led Brown and his colleagues to postpone and revamp the concept and themes for the latest production.
One of SONDERimmersive’s greatest strengths is its resourcefulness in using existing venues to leverage satisfying theatrical impact. The Dreamscapes exhibit is a natural winner. The 14,000-square-foot exhibit is a well-constructed sophisticated version of a fun house, which incorporates many components and dimensions of the classic dream archetypes we would find in the works of Jung as well as literary figures and scientists who study neuroscience and dreams.
The show’s open-ended story, which involves and asks for some level of audience interaction (albeit it on a socially responsible prudent measure of distancing during a pandemic), builds nicely on the carousel motif of emotions circling and revolving throughout our lives. Only four members of the audience start to go through the series of tableaux, with new groups starting at five-minute intervals. Audience members and performers keep their masks on throughout the entire performance. Thus, the movement that Brown set on the performers becomes critical to the flow and cadence of the story, as each small cluster of audience members navigates one scene to another. In each scene, there are designated spots for audience members to stand and sit, assigned according to a number given to each at the outset of the performance.
The opening is led by The Jester (Catherine Mortimer), whose prologue encourages audience members to liberate the restraints of their imagination to consider and explore a deeper reality that challenges their emotional mindset. The basic story outline is about a mother and her child and the attempt to reunite through a journey that is more abstract and metaphorical than it is concrete. And, the symbolic elements are naturally accentuated by the scenes of the Dreamscapes exhibit without forcing the connection in an obvious manner. The audience meets various characters, including the mother (Ashley Wilkinson) and the daughter, Brandy (first by Martina Jorgensen and then Xochitl Marquez and later Amber Golden). Two Jungian-like archetypal characters also emerge: The Logic (Tyler Fox) and The Dragon (Barrett Ogden). In fact, both of these characters provide crucial thematic anchors for the production and the audience epiphany in the most exciting moments of the immersive experience.
Like other SONDERimmersive productions — notably, The Chocolatier — audience members are pushed into new territory in their theatrical experiences, an objective elegantly propelled by The Dragon’s appearance in the show’s final scene. And, SONDERimmersive has set the bar at an admirably high level for pulling off the logistics to produce live theatrical experiences amid the formidable constraints to ensure that both performers and attendees are comfortable enough to enjoy the production. Like other productions by this company, The Carousel finds its meta message which states that we only limit ourselves if we do not consider the more expansive possibilities our imaginations invite us to contemplate.
The beginning times for the hour-long experience are staggered every five minutes between 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., on Mondays and Tuesdays, through Nov. 24. The Dreamscapes exhibit will be relocated during the Thanksgiving holiday period to a venue across the street from its original location at The Gateway. Brown says that performances likely will resume in early December.
For tickets and more information, see the SONDERimmersive website.