Sometimes monsters aren’t the boogeyman hiding in your closet.  Sometimes, these monsters are the people we love, the people who are supposed to protect us from harm, and when those people hurt us, it can have a devastating effect.  Love has always been a tricky subject/feeling for me, and it wasn’t until almost 2 years ago that I had really felt what love truly meant.  For the last few months, Shine On Collective has been putting on an immersive experience dedicated to the darker side of love called Devoted. Devoted follows the story of Cara who we learn about in the earlier Devoted shows.  I had unfortunately missed these shows, which were performed at Midsummer Scream and ScareLA, but from the buzz I was hearing, their newest show was not to be missed.

This Halloween season, I’ve made it a goal of mine to try more immersive experiences and to push the limits of what I can handle.  Signing up for Devoted: Forever was only my third or so immersive experience so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  When I arrived at my destination, I had been instructed via email to be by a Red Box (yes, the one that you can rent DVD’s from) in a parking lot at night and that someone would be calling me at my designated time.  At precisely 8pm, my phone rang and I was told to stand, place my hand over my heart, and someone would be coming to retrieve me.  A few minutes passed, and as I stood there, I wondered “What am I doing?  What am I about to get myself involved in?” Before I had time to answer, two people approached me, a man and woman, and asked if I was Shannon and if I loved Cara. I awkwardly replied yes, at which point they hugged me and told me to follow them. I was led to a car, at which point I was blindfolded and driven to an undisclosed location.

Before going further, I should give you some insight about this show.  It deals with heavy topics that surround abuse, in both a sexual and physical manner, with both adults and children.  I have dealt with these topics in my life in the past and I knew going into an experience such as this, it could be a trigger for me.  Cara’s story is one of heartbreak and suffering.  Of abandonment and mistrust and the desire to just be truly loved. Shine On Collective did an absolutely superb job of intertwining all of these themes in a way that was respectful, never once trying to capitalize on this for the sake of shock value.  The presentation of the story was done in a very artistic way that made use of two rooms to their maximum potential.  However, the star of the show was Trish DeLuca, as Cara, who absolutely stole the show.  Her dedication to the role was palpable and it was hard not to find yourself lost in her story.  All she wants from you is your love, to be one with her, and to be together, forever.  How can you say no to that?

I applaud writer Anna Mavromati for writing such a beautiful piece.  So many shows bank off of obscene but sometimes they don’t realize the people they can hurt by doing so.  Anna took the time to write something that not only is a piece of social commentary but leaves the participant aching for more. I found myself wishing for the show to go on longer so that I could have learned more, to maybe even learn more about myself.  How many shows have that effect on people? Not many.  Director Marlee Delia did a phenomenal job of bringing Anna’s story to life.  Her talent is apparent in the fact that she doesn’t need much to get the point across.  The minimal style of everything worked to her advantage as it makes the participant focus on the one thing that matters: Cara’s story and her love. It’s apparent how well Anna and Marlee work off of each other as they were able to bring Cara to life in such a way that you become lost in the story, even hours after it’s ended.

Overall, Devoted: Forever, is a show that has stayed buried within me.  I say that because I haven’t fully allowed myself to grasp the depth that this show presented me and I know it’s going to take time and I’m okay with that.  In retrospect, I wish I had allowed myself to be more open during the entire experience, but I know a part of me was closed off because I didn’t want to have to deal with issues from my past that could be brought up during this show.  What I really wanted to say to Cara was I understand.  I know the pain and I know the sorrow, but it’ll get better.  It always does.

Though Devoted: Forever only had a short run, they will be doing a new show in October and I can’t wait to experience it.  I hope this time I can finally allow myself to be more open.  Forever sold out fast so I highly suggest getting tickets to their new show HERE.  This will be our last chance to see Cara and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

For more information on Shine On Collective, visit their website

Shannon McGrew
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