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Immersive theater workshop at The College of Extraordinary Experiences

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Two weeks ago, I attended the College of Extraordinary Experiences for the second time. As I had experienced during my first time attending, one of the magical elements of the college - and one of its three main pillars - is co-creation.

As Aristotle first coined, “a whole is the sum of its parts”. And that is especially true for the college. Every participant co-creates the overall, communal experience through their engagement and participation. With so many interesting people from very different professional domains, it makes sense to tap into the power of the collective and let those talents shine.

For the final full day of the college, the participants had been invited to co-create the curriculum. As a fellow CoEE 2022 graduate called it, ‘it was a crowd-sourced day of programming that resulted in a diverse buffet of workshops and classes.’

With that on the agenda, I teamed up with fellow French immersive actress/creator Eliza Calmat and Amsterdam-based creator/actor Gunnar de Jong to present a workshop on immersive theater. We named our workshop “Immersive Tools: Inside and Out, Initiation into Immersive Theater”.

In immersive theater, the participants (the audience) are an integral part of the experience, co-creating its unfolding with the actors every step of the way. Therefore, we believed it would be helpful to share that understanding in our workshop.

Our goal was to help our workshop participants walk away with two key principles:

1. The better you understand the participant's role and perspective, the better the creator (and actors) can design a production that resonates with/speaks to/incorporates the participant.

2. The better a participant understands the intention and design of the creators and actors, the better participants they can be.

Through the course of an hour and a half, we shared with workshop participants the building blocks of immersive theater through the perspective of both a participant and a creator. The first part of the workshop focused on the three main types of audience participants: skimmers, swimmers and divers. Or as Eliza refers to it: back seat, front seat and driver.

The three of us then created a short site-specific promenade theater experience (in the halls of the castle) where the participants could feel what it was like to engage with performers as one of the three aforementioned types.

After the participants finished the promenade, they were invited to form groups and design their own mini-immersive theatrical production. Fortunately, the college has a bevy of costumes and props in stock which really helped everyone get into the mood!

This was the opportunity to incorporate the tools they had just learned and put them into practice.

Each group then presented their experience while the rest of us became their participants. Afterward, we discussed what the experience was like for each of us as the creator and as a participant.

The groups did a great job creating their immersive theater productions, diving headfirst into the lessons shared during the workshop. A few of the participants finished the workshop with a newfound desire to incorporate immersive theater into their work! Yay!

It was a huge pleasure and a lot of fun co-creating this workshop with Eliza and Gunnar... and sharing our love of immersive theater with our fellow college classmates! We were also grateful to have helped co-create the experience of the college overall, adding one little addition to the sum of its magical parts.


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