Tuesday, September 8, 2020

This Way Out: La Jolla Playhouse Presents a Pair of Portals into Artful Worlds

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt  

Sweaty, smoky, uncertain September. As if the pandemic were not enough, September swept in with record-breaking three-digit temperatures, state-of-emergency wildfires that spread smoke-filled clouds and flakes of ash around the county, and no lessening of social unrest and political dissension.
If you’re looking for a way out, La Jolla Playhouse is currently offering some solutions—a pair of portals into new worlds imagined by acclaimed local artists that are part of their biennial WOW Festival, which this year has gone fully virtual.


The first portal to open is Portaleza, created by award-winning scenic/costume designer David Israel Reynoso and his team of paranormal visionaries called Optika Moderna. You may have already journeyed through one of OM’s elaborate, immersive productions at previous WOW Fests—“Las Quinceañeras” in 2019 or “Waking La Llorona” in 2017. This one is a private experience you have in your own home, with the aid of your smart phone and the contents of a mysterious package mailed to you several days before your ticket date.

Portaleza will be on view through October 4. Tickets are $20 and must be ordered in advance at LaJollaPlayhouse.org

The Society of Wonder

Portal #2, The Society of Wonder, is the work of Bridget Rountree and Iain McGunn, aka Animal Cracker Conspiracy—a dynamic duo who combine ingenious puppetry, an array of visual arts, and offbeat storytelling in their productions. This one is a six-part series of videos about an ancient society that discovered secret portals to an underground kingdom of hope and inspiration in their own backyards and is about to come to life again—in a whole new way.

Exact dates have not yet been announced, but The Society of Wonder will be launching sometime in mid-September. And wonder of wonders—all six episodes are free. 

*UPDATE, September 18:  I have seen The Society of Wonder—Episode 1, at least—which just started streaming today. It’s only six minutes long and mostly introduces six unusual characters about to dig into a mysterious situation but the puppets are wondrous enough to make you want to follow them anywhere, certainly through the next five episodes. The settings are gorgeous too, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. The plan is to release a new episode every Friday. You can kick off your weekend with this one at https://lajollaplayhouse.org/wow-goes-digital/society-of-wonder/

For more information about both of these portals, see LaJollaPlayhouse.org

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at hew2@sbcglobal.net

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