There’s something incredibly magical and innovative about mythologies. There is so much within each culture’s mythos to explore and play around with creatively, with so many intriguing characters that continue to capture our attention centuries – heck – millennia later. That’s why it was an easy decision for me to attend ASCEND: WHEN MYTHS FALL, HEROES RISE at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival after finding out that not only would the play pull from four different cultural mythologies but that we would get the opportunity to interact and play a part within the universe the Hidden Realms team had created. Needless to say, this may be one of the most fun immersive shows I’ve attended.
Prior to arriving at the show, audience members are asked to take a quiz to determine who their godly parent is. This helps cement a starting point for audience members once the show starts. And, with four mythological pantheons to get sorted into, the results can be pretty fun. When audience members arrive, they soon discover that they have been invited because an ancient threat is rising and must be stopped with all of our help. However, some gods are missing and, as audience members will discover throughout the course of the two-hour production, some of the gods present may have their own ideas on how to receive this ancient threat. That’s about as much as I feel comfortable sharing in terms of the plot because a large chunk of the fun that ASCEND: WHEN MYTHS FALL, HEROES RISE delivers is in all the little bits and pieces of info that audience members are made to gather during the show.
Throughout the course of the show, audience members have the option of participating in various quests to acquire information and do deeds on behalf of the gods present as well as take on challenges like archery or, in my anxiety-ridden case, having to map out the entire Ming Dynasty royal family line. With the promise of our actions influencing how the show will ultimately end, it was easy to get swept up in the excitement of bouncing from God to God. And, in all honesty, this is where I think the cast of ASCEND: WHEN MYTHS FALL, HEROES RISE really shined with their improv abilities. That’s not to say that the more obviously scripted scenes weren’t as well done, but I thought that once the actors were able to diverge off script a bit and interact one on one with audience members that they were able to make the Gods feel more real.
While the show itself was fun and felt shorter than the two hour time period we got to play around in, there were a couple of minor issues that I had that could be worked on for future shows. One issue that I noted was how sometimes audience members would be left waiting while a God finished relaying information to an individual or a couple of audience members. I’m not sure if this had to do with just how many audience members were present at the show I attended or because of more individual audience members attending rather than groups of friends, I’m not sure. However, it did leave an awkwardness, especially if an audience member pairing was determined to stick to their mission rather than to go kill time completing a task. While I would like to make the suggestion of perhaps limiting the audience size, I’m not entirely sure that is the root of this problem. If it was perhaps encouraged for audience members to pair up together in groups of four, maybe that might mitigate some of the awkward clumps of people that appeared while waiting their turn.
Another issue that I had, which is really an altogether minor issue, was the space size. Because of how many people there were attending the show, it did feel very cramped at certain points. I know that with Fringe, there is a limitation that many groups have in terms of spacing. And, with an ambitious production like ASCEND: WHEN MYTHS FALL, HEROES RISE, it doesn’t make all too much sense to reduce the audience size when there are so many activities to keep people busy. However, I’d be curious to see whether a larger space in the future would help ease that feeling of claustrophobia and crampedness. Again, in retrospect, this is a rather minor quibble. And, if given the space that they had, I thought that the Hidden Realms team did a lot more than many of us expected to see in that space.
Overall, ASCEND: WHEN MYTHS FALL, HEROES RISE is an extraordinarily fun experience that can be repeated time and time again with different results. It honestly is a show that also serves as a form of escapism despite some of the topics discussed by characters throughout the show. Basically, it is like if a LARP game possessed by the spirit of Zeus had a baby with a theatrical group and brought it to Fringe and – honestly – I think that’s my sales pitch for the show. Go. Have fun. Embrace your inner demi-god and attend this awesome, adventure-filled show.
The show has been extended for two weeks, with performances taking place on July 12th and July 19th. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased here.