Something unusual is about to happen in downtown L.A. About 50 people with headphones on are standing around in a garden. They’ve come to participate in something called Remote L.A. It’s billed as a "live pedestrian theatre performance," but nobody seems clear on what that means.
“My friend brought me on this adventure and I’m like it’s a journey! I don’t know what were doing; but I’m excited,” said Jennie Kim, 37. Kim brought her husband and kids with her on the adventure.
Suddenly, an artificial sounding voice starts talking to them through their headphones. The voice is called Heather, and for the next 90 minutes she guides them through the city, often asking them to look at L.A. and each other in a new way. At times, it feels like a social experiment and at others it’s fun and playful.
“I think the thing [that] was special on doing this production in Los Angeles is that the city is very much car based that people are not used to walk a lot so it shows you what you can see in the city if you experience it as pedestrian and not sitting in your car,” says Jörg Karrenbauer, the director and co-creator of the performance.
Karrenbauer is part of the German-based Rimini Protokoll art collective that has put on Remote performances in cities across the world.
He was invited by Diane Rodriguez, the associate artistic director of center Theatre Group to create Remote LA. Center Theatre Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and to make it memorable they decided to bring theatre out of the playhouse and into the streets.
“So the city is never boring…it's very theatrical, it’s very entertaining already by itself. This is what it makes it very easy to look at it as creating theatrical moments in the city just by framing moments, by stopping the people, by telling them ‘okay stop, and look,” says Karrenbauer.
In this performance, the participants are actors and audience simultaneously. They observe the city, but the everyday passersby also look curiously at them. The technology Karrenbauer uses seems to react to what the participants are doing and what’s happening around them; creating moments of theatre magic.
“This is a chance to give Los Angeles a deeper look; not just blink and quickly drive by in your car; it’s a moment to observe in a way that you never let yourself. That's why you will remember it; because you're forced to do something in a very cool and fun way…” says Diane Rodriguez.
And how did the actors-slash-audience feel about it when it was all over?
“It was a rocking good time, I had a blast, I saw a lot of spaces I’ve never seen before and I’ve been around L.A. for a couple years so that was great!” said Dave Mack.
“I felt like I was part of a big sociology experiment at times, and other times I felt like was inside a sci-fi movie,” said Jennie Kim. “You know us Angelinos, we don’t really walking [laughs] so this was really nice, I liked the walking.”
Remote L.A. runs through April 2nd and tickets are available at centertheatregroup.org