Refraction: a bending or changing or a deflecting from a straight path. The moment in time when the phase velocity is modified, but the frequency is sustained. The process of passing from one medium to another. A directional shift or change.
This past weekend at ScareLA, ALONE presented their second of four indices for their Unweave the Rainbow storyline.
Yet again, it is days later, and I am still thinking about it.
Let’s rewind a bit, though. ScareLA and ALONE will forever be synonymous in my mind. I had my first taste of ALONE at the 2014 ScareLA and absolutely fell in love. Since then, I have been to the numerous events ALONE has held, and with each one, my appreciation for what their creative team is doing grows.
After The Enola Body last year, I was very excited to begin their Unweave the Rainbow story. I wrote back in July about my experience with ALONE: Diffusion, their first offering of the year, and how much I enjoyed it. It made me feel the gauntlet of emotions, and it was a great way to introduce the new story.
Now, at ScareLA, they took it a step further with ALONE: Refraction.
As soon as the convention doors opened on Saturday, my friends and I raced to their booth to immediately sign up. There were a few things that set this apart from my other experiences with ALONE so far. For starters, our group ran from seasoned veterans of these types of experiences (me, amongst others) to those who were still tip-toeing their way into that world (my fiancé, Martina) to those who have never done anything like this before (my friend, Kori). It was quite the range, and each of us would take something different away from it (but we’ll get into that later).
We also had a few people who were doing it because it was at the convention, and hey, free haunt experience so why not? The rest of us were signed up for the Four Indices Pass (a sort of season pass for the entire year), and were fully committed to the ALONE experience. Us passholders were asked, via email, to bring a pink offering.
The folks who signed up on the spot were handed a slip of paper to find the black pod wandering the show floor. It wasn’t until later that I saw one of these “pods” in action, as they engulfed people who approached them, marked them with colors, and told how to find the next step of the experience.
However, those of us who brought offerings placed them in a metal bowl on the table. I was the first in line to do so, actually. The woman checked my name off a list (“We’ve been expecting you,” she said), and then asked me if I had read the email they sent completely.
I said I did. She just smiled at me.
“Perhaps you should read it again…a little more thoroughly,” she said.
I grabbed my phone, and opened their email again. I won’t re-print what was said, but it was mostly about the process of refraction. However, this time, the last three lines stuck out at me.
bring pink. an offering. booth 307.
breathe deep and hold.
crawl under, and through, to refract.
Suddenly, it became clearer. I asked the folks surrounding the area if they could step back for a moment, took a deep breath, and proceeded to climb under the table.
I was suddenly engulfed in darkness. Well, of course I was. I was under a table. But I lifted up the dark curtain on the other end, and proceeded to crawl through to the other side. I found myself in a small, dark room. Three walls were covered in black, while the fourth looked to be some sort of opaque shower curtain. On the other side, a rainbow of colors was projected, while a silhouette danced. After a few moments, the darkened figure reached through the curtain and handed me a piece of paper. I thanked them, and crawled back out.
I certainly surprised the new folks waiting to sign up when I started tugging at their pant legs and said “Excuse me!” as I crawled out.
I walked away and looked at the slip of paper I had received. More poetic language on refraction, but also further instructions. Head West. Across the courtyard. Look for the pink triangle.
I couldn’t help but smile.
To me, this is what ALONE is; a series of beautiful, albeit strange, moments to make you feel things you aren’t used to feeling on a day-to-day basis.
Much like last time, I won’t get into specifics of the event itself, as I don’t want to spoil it in case they decide to do something similar in the future.
That said, we had the opportunity to do ALONE: Refraction twice; as part of the very first group on Saturday, and then later on Sunday afternoon. While the bulk of the experience was the same (same beginning, layout, and basic themes), what changed was the intensity, flow, and overall feel of it.
By no means am I implying that I didn’t enjoy Saturday’s go-round; in fact, I really did. It’s just on Sunday, they had definitely found their footing within the space, adjusted some bits that weren’t working as they wanted, and definitely made it a much different experience.
Again, there is no judgement here at all; ALONE manages to create a wonderful experience every time I go through, so it’s amazing to see what they can pull off with what they are given. And given the confines of the ScareLA convention, the entire piece was basically a living, breathing thing. Devon Paulson and Lawrence Lewis, creative masterminds behind ALONE, went out of their way to hear reactions, observe things, and adjust everything as needed to make sure the show worked better for the next group.
In fact, when we ran into them on the convention floor on Sunday, they were anxious to hear our thoughts and feelings on ALONE: Refraction. After chatting for a few minutes, they were gracious enough to invite us back again to experience what they had evolved it into.
We all felt that the second go-round was more visceral and intimate, and were happy for the experience. Like I just mentioned, they directed their actors to do things differently, adjusted the pacing of certain scenes, and made everything shine…or, as much as you can shine in the dark.
I will say this about the beginning of ALONE: Refraction…the original piece that was written for the opening scene of the show was fantastic. While I won’t spoil the circumstances in which we heard it being performed, it was just such a dark, beautiful piece that spoke to me on so many different levels. Laying on the floor next to my friend (and fellow HorrorBuzz writer) Taylor Winters, we kept looking at each other at every powerful moment or laughing when the male actor REALLY got into his segment. The female actress, who carried the bulk of the performance, was just amazing. She blew me away, both times, and just really nailed it. It was brilliant, and I hope they publish it, in some form, in the future.
It always takes me a bit of time, after walking out of one of these things, to process what I just went through and really formulate my thoughts on it. This was no different, as we all walked out and quickly began to discuss amongst ourselves what we had experienced. To me, that is one of the best parts.
On Sunday evening, most of the folks I spent the weekend with went to dinner, where we had a long conversation about ScareLA overall. But, the thing we we kept coming back to was ALONE.
Like I mentioned earlier, all of us were coming from various degrees of haunt experience: from the seasoned vets to the first timers. We all viewed it in a different way. My friend Kori, who has only ever experienced corn mazes but nothing on the same level as ALONE: Refraction, walked away with a new sense of self. She explained that, while nervous all the way leading up to it (we maaaaay have forced her into it. Kind of), she was glad she went through with it. She pushed the boundaries of what she was comfortable with, and learned more about herself, and came away with an eerie sense of calm. Her brain was trying to figure out what she went through, to the point that she was still bringing it up well into Saturday evening, and the next morning.
That said, when it came time to re-visit it on Sunday, she declined.
“No thanks,” she said. “I’m still trying to process yesterday!”
What’s good about these types of experiences, ALONE especially in this case, is that in talking about it, you learn more about your friends than you would ever know. In my mind, this brings us closer together.
Again, while at dinner, we all had a long talk about what we went through, with differing opinions on what certain parts of the show meant to us, what they touched upon in our own psyche, and just what the heck all of it meant. Some of us argued over certain aspects of the show that changed from Saturday to Sunday, and which ones were better. Some of us didn’t even go through the entire experience again, and wound up having a completely different second half than the first time around.
The point being that it invoked a lively discussion, and in the end, made me love and appreciate my friends more, and also appreciate what ALONE: Refraction was overall. It brought us together as friends, not just in our understanding of one another, but also quite literally, as well. I met Taylor and his girlfriend, Taylor Thorne, during ALONE’s scavenger hunt back in January.
At the end of the day, ALONE: Refraction made perfect sense to us, despite our differing opinions on what it meant. Between the two distinct “halves” of the show, on both days, there was an extreme shift in direction. There was much deflecting from a straight path, in a very physical sense, during the second half of the show. The weird frequency that ALONE has always maintained was there, but the phase velocity was most definitely changed.
A big kudos to everyone involved in ALONE: Refraction is most definitely necessary and well-deserved. From the creative team of Devon and Lawrence, to their technical people, to their amazing actors, they all had a role to play (often times, more than one), and they played them beautifully.
Index One: Diffusion is complete. Index Two: Refraction is complete.
Reflection is next. And I am curious to see what they reveal to me about myself for Index Three.
To learn more about ALONE and sign up for their mailing list, please visit their website.