Dig Baton Rouge

Welcome, Patient

By Tara Bennett

For those who prefer to go without blood, guts and gore this Halloween, you’re in for a treat. On Oct. 30, local art collective Elevator Projects will take you into a look of collective consciousness with their immersive theatre event The Asylum.

The event is reminiscent of Sleep No More, a live theatre experience in New York City where patrons don masks and wander about a seemingly abandoned hotel in order to watch a Macbeth-themed narrative unfold by visiting each room.

While immersive theatre is not entirely new, this will be the first of its kind in Baton Rouge as EP broadens into other art disciplines.

“The Asylum is a great example of our newly developing infusion of theatre and more performance into our events,” said Raina Wirta, the executive director for EP.

“We have art events and we have theatre events, but we don’t really have anything that is a combination of both,” said Stephanie Landry, project director of The Asylum.

EP put on their first installment of The Asylum back in 2013 where they transformed a warehouse into an immersive art installation. This year’s Asylum serves as a fundraiser for the organization and its 2016 programming.

“We all remembered how much fun the original Asylum was and how the public really enjoyed as well,” said Landry. “So we decided we wanted to do that theme again for this year’s fundraiser.”

As a completely different Halloween experience, The Asylum transforms the ground floor of the Chase Building on Florida Street into an asylum circa 1950 with individual vignettes created by visual and performing artist teams. All of the art and performance installations are inspired from the ‘50s era, including asylum-esque themes or something as simple as a ‘50s house wife. There will also be a mini art gallery right outside of the event. All of the pieces are local artist’s interpretation of 50s era and asylum.

“There is an overarching theme to the entire event but then each individual actor has their own story as well,” said Landry. “There are individual scenes and they kind of play off of each other.”

While there are no jump scares or gore, the Halloween art event will have audiences (dubbed as ‘patients’) examine deeper into their psyches as they interact with the actors. It falls back onto the feeling of psychological horror, but is aimed more at unnerving rather than horrifying.

“I don’t think there’s anything that would give someone nightmares,” said Landry.

Teaming up with EP is local theatre collective Bang Bang You’re Dead, who are assisting with pairing up performers, playwrights and visual artists to create each vignette inside The Asylum.

“Not only do we have artists that we’ve worked with for years, but now we have people who have been involved with theatre for a long time,” said Landry. “Now we’re all joining forces to create this really new and different event.”

According to Landry, ‘patients’ are encouraged to interact as much as they feel comfortable with the actors. While there are scripted lines, there will also be a lot of improv acting. The event is encouraged for everyone 18 years and older.

“Hopefully they come away with a sense of intrigue and then they’ll start creating things,” said Landry. “Anyone who might have a vague interest in art or theatre, or the event…we welcome everyone with open arms to our events.”

Thursday, Oct. 29 will also serve as a donor party for EP where attendees can party with EP and experience The Asylum before the general public. Performances go on from 8-10 p.m. with doors opening at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be available before performances begin. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $100 for the donor party. It is highly recommended to purchase tickets early at bitly.com/asylum_ticket.

“You can’t guarantee there will be any available at the door,” said Landry

Q&A with EP Executive Director Raina Wirta

DIG: How does it feel for you seeing EP grow and develop over the past year? Does it match your original vision for the organization?

Wirta: It’s really exciting. I feel we’ve grown and organized well in the last year. Our board is developing and have been a crucial part of our growth. Good things come in all shapes and sizes, colors and flavors. My vision for Elevator Projects has become grander in ways that I was not expecting. For instance, the artists that are a part of our collective have remained the same and so it’s great to see how these artists have grown and developed their personal body of work over the past year (or more). I’ve shifted how I see the vision manifesting. I’ve realized that the artist’s development is something that is very much needed in Baton Rouge. Not just for artists, but for artistry and creativity in daily life in general. At the heart of what we do is through the artists, creators, makers of all kinds of inspiration.

DIG: What is your favorite event EP has produced thus far? What did it accomplish for you personally, as well as for the general public?

Wirta: My favorite event would definitely have to be the ARTcade. It’s our fundraiser that is all play! It engages kids of all ages in a fun environment with artist made games, most being larger-than-life and interactive on a cognitive level. We had a great turnout last September. Everyone was dressed up as a homegrown superhero, it was fantastic.

DIG: What is your next primary goal for EP? How would you like to see the organization evolve?

Wirta: Primary goal is to have a killer event at the end of this month and raise $10,000 to cover our rent for our HQ, The Walls Project Art & Design Center! Get your tickets to the Asylum!

Wirta: We are working on big plans for next year too. Get ready for the ARTcade in the spring! Our scope of activities is expanding also, we’re really excited to be working with entities like the Red Stick International Festival and the Baton Rouge Gallery. We always are looking to create more activities to engage kids.

DIG: What is currently on the horizon for EP in terms of events and programming?

Wirta: My next goal is to develop our community and educational programming. We are creating workshops and classes based on our artists’ interests and experience, while providing quality, accessible, and nontraditional creative education. I’d like to see the organization evolve through our programming.

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