[Immersive Experience] Optika Moderna Presents PORTALEZA

[Immersive Experience] Optika Moderna Presents PORTALEZA
Courtesy of Optika Moderna
At this time of year, which sees the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds at its thinnest, and eventually lifted completely on Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, we are often reminded of those who have passed on. Add to this the sense of isolation born from the social restrictions in place due to the worldwide pandemic, and the desire to communicate and connect with those living and dead provides a rich tapestry of exploration for immersive experiences this spooky season. While some may focus on the terrifying dangers and physical cost of summoning spirits, Optika Moderna’s PORTALEZA will instead take you on an emotional, even cathartic, journey, offering something refreshing and unique from the comfort (and relative safety) of your home, available to experience internationally until mid-December.

Part of La Jolla Playhouse’s digital iteration of the Without Walls series, PORTALEZA is a remote immersive experience from the Playhouse’s current artist in residence David Israel Reynoso. Reynoso’s Optika Moderna theatre company brings to life the experiments of Dr. E.S. Moctezuma and her team of opticians, who utilises ocular devices to transport patients into otherworldly explorations of Mexican and Latino folklore and culture. Debuting in 2017 with the haunting “Waking La Llorona”, and followed by “Las Quinceañeras” in 2019, Optika Moderna now presents willing participants with the opportunity to send a message to a lost loved one in PORTALEZA, a portmanteau of “portal” and “Fortaleza” meaning fortress or strength.

A mysterious parcel arrives at your door

Its humble contents unlock an astounding reality

Beyond your reach

What will you find within?

Courtesy of Optika Moderna

The arrival of a deceptively unassuming A5 envelope heralds the beginning of your adventure. In addition to its contents, you will need a smartphone (with camera, text, and email capabilities), earphones, a pen, and a desk or table and chair in a quiet, darkened space. With the portal open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you can enter on any day and at any time that is convenient to you, although it is recommended to do so at night – sunset being a time when the veil is particularly thin. Once you are comfortable and ready, your virtual consultation with Dr. Moctezuma can begin.

PORTALEZA features a diverse and talented cast, including Jennifer Paredes (returning as Doctora Moctezuma), alongside “Sleep No More” veterans and Optika Moderna favourites Robert Najarian and Kelly Bartnik, and the stunningly expressive LaMia Dingle. These performers effectively and impressively convey a myriad of emotions without ever uttering a word, through the medium of movement and expression.

Whilst your path through the portal may differ from others, just as your path to this moment will have differed and thus impact upon your emotional reactions, as I followed my message on its course, I experienced feelings of peace, apprehension, joy, and of course sorrow and loss, as well as a sense of forgiveness and closure that left me sobbing into a pillow – an emotionally complex journey that is particularly impressive considering the entire experience lasts around 30 minutes. The enclosed “hypnocular device”, combined with the use of a smartphone and earphones, creates a fully immersive, hypnotic, and kaleidoscopic experience, both innovative and yet somehow timeless in its use of visuals and soundtrack.

Courtesy of Optika Moderna

PORTALEZA will not only leave you with precious memories of your time spent beyond the veil that will linger long after the curtains have closed, but also with some physical mementos featuring beautifully evocative artwork by Sonya Calderon. And all of this comes at a ticket price of a mere $20 ($25 for international participants). Limited tickets are still on sale until October 31st, but with the portal remaining open 24 hours a day until December 15th, it is definitely a case of buy now, think about scheduling later.

With PORTALEZA, Optika Moderna takes their signature experimental show design and adapts it further, opening its ethereal world up to a global audience in need of connection. In a season filled with tales of horror, set against the backdrop of the frightening unpredictability of real life, PORTALEZA offers the chance to feel something more than fear, an opportunity to escape into a moment and say all the things we never got the chance to say to those we have lost. And to maybe even receive a message in response.

For more information and tickets, visit https://lajollaplayhouse.org/portaleza. Follow Optika Moderna on Instagram, @optikamoderna.

Vicki Camps

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