Then she fell: On immersive experiences that can’t be shared.

By Danié Gómez-Ortigoza

February 3, 2020

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‘Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a house called Memory.’ That’s all I can remember from the most beautiful story I’ve ever heard, which was read to me as I was, literally, put to bed by the Mad-hatter as part of the immersive theater experience of ‘Then She Fell’.

I’m passionate for things that can help you connect and feel as much as this experience did. The night prior to this play I went to ‘Sleep No More’ and was deeply disappointed by how disorganized the flow of people was and the constant anxiety of knowing I was missing most of it because of how big the space was. But this was totally different. The experience created by Third Rail Projects is reserved for only 15 spectators twice per night, with a specific agenda crafted for each of them.

Everything I went through that week seemed to complement the experience quite well. I had spent all day in meetings and cultural experiences where phones seemed to always be the protagonists. From the MOMA to CAMP, which had just opened at the MET to the Color Museum, which is an ode to the ‘shareable’ life.

It was 10.30 pm. I went on my own, and had to travel all the way to Brooklyn to get there. I kept observing people on the subway glued to their phones in total silence as they waited next to me for the L train. A guy went into the subway and started shouting at a woman, who shouted back. No one blinked; they were all too busy on their phones.

And yet, as I arrived into the house where ‘Then She Fell’ takes place, first thing I had to do was get rid of everything I had in my hands. Phones were not allowed.

The funny, and perhaps unexpected side-effect of technology is that it keeps building invisible layers between us: we live through our phones and get the news and the information that we like, rarely the full picture or the things we actually need to know. We also hoard ‘knowledge’ through never-ending bookmarks, pictures and videos, without really absorbing what that knowledge means as we quickly move on to something else.

It’s impossible to express what a human experience is like. To see and be seen. To touch and smell and immerse yourself in something that goes beyond your screen and that you can’t immortalize with a picture.

Nothing will ever replace the direct gaze of an actress who without words, but instead, through her body-movement and stare reminds you of emotions you’ve experienced before, or wish you could experience one day.

There’s something incredibly special about those things you can’t photograph and shouldn’t explain because words can’t do.

So, truth is, I can’t really explain to you what this theatrical experience is about because I wouldn’t be able to make justice to it.

All I can say is that it reminded me that as ‘immersive’ as our phones can be, we need to stay away from them not to forget what it means to be human. We are forgetting how to be present.

As hard as I tried to memorize my bed-time story, I couldn’t. All I remember is that the protagonist couldn’t remember the past: she could only remember the future.

And perhaps it’s better that I can’t remember. I will be left forever with a feeling of longing, remembering only what those words made me think. The mind often holds closer to the heart those unattainable things much more than those you can simply attain when you record a video or snap a picture.

The most interesting part about this play is that no one has the same experience. I wish I had been chosen to comb Alice’s hair. Perhaps another time.

My only real memento from this night was a paper with a beautiful text that makes reference to the girl I mentioned before:

It is a good night for ghosts. The rabbit in the moon is full and waiting to take souls to far shores as it crosses the sky.

I dreamt a dream that I was with you tonight. I awoke and my lips were numb from saying your name.

I dreamt that we were dreaming a dream together, you and I, and we were trapped in a house, big as memory. Countless doors.

You were there. I could hear you laughing, but I only caught glimpses of you in the glass. Eventually I gave in and found myself staring at myself, reflected. Looking at myself looking back at me. Both of us trying to decipher the face that was in front of us. My eyes seeing me in mine and countless.

I have retreated into twos because of you.

I wonder, when you look in the mirror, who stares you down at night?

But, it is late, and my mind is running away with itself.

Sleep well, wherever you are.

It is a good night for ghosts. And in between us, we have a pocketful.