When it comes to immersive experiences and/or immersive events, I thought I had seen them all. That was until I heard about Optika Moderna‘s “Waking La Llorona”. Something about the event caught my eye and though it was being held in San Diego (about an hour and half drive from where I live), I didn’t hesitate to sign myself up in hopes of getting an appointment. A few days later, I received a cryptic email from Optika Moderna informing me of a specific location, time, and date for my meeting with La Llorona…

Prior to this event, I wasn’t over familiar with the mythology surrounding La Llorona. Not wanting to know too much, I did some research to at least familiarize myself with the legend. For those of you who are interested in a bit of backstory, the La Llorona, also called The Crying Woman, has been around since the 1500’s and is a prominent figure in Spanish American folklore. The legend says that the ghost of this woman is searching for her children, usually looking for them near rivers, insinuating they have drowned. You can always tell when she is near by the sound of her cries.

The best way to describe “Waking La Llorona” would be to say it’s a combination of sensory overload and deprivation. It’s completely unlike anything I have experience in the world of immersive theatre and one of the few shows to leave me reeling after it ended. Believe me when I say, I honestly had no idea what to expect from this show. The only information I was able to gather was on their website which stated that it was an individual experience where visitors would “encounter a doctor and be guided through a 30-minute, experimental, immersive exploration of La Llorona.” However, the show is much more than that, as it uses a variety of tactics to give guests a unique and voyeuristic look into this urban legend.

In terms of design, “Waking La Llorona” is probably one of the most beautifully designed experiences that I have ever attended. Whoever is responsible for the production of the set design deserves a medal for their artistic creativity in bringing to life this story. From the moment I met the doctor to the devastating conclusion, I was 100% completely immersed in the environment; and honestly, a part of me never wanted to leave. Along with the incredible sets that each vignette housed, there was an overwhelming feeling of dread and discomfort that permeated throughout. Rightfully so, because this experience is drenched in heartache and sadness.

Is “Waking La Llorona” worth all the acclaim I’m giving it? Well yeah, of course it is! It was worth all the driving to attend such an extraordinary experience; so much so, I would be willing to do it again and again as I’m sure there is much I missed the first time around. My only critique is that there is a moment where you are offered a shot of vodka, and at first I thought it was water and almost took it. As someone who is sober, that would have wrecked me, so I’m glad I sniffed it before taking it. As of right now, their run of “Waking La Llorona” is completely sold out, but there is a place to sign up in case of any openings in the near future. I’m not sure what else is to come from Optika Moderna, but I can guarantee whatever it may be it’ll blow us all away.

Shannon McGrew
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