Fringe Offering Uses Modern Technology to Show EXTREMELY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF PRIVACY

by Walter Bender

EXTREMELY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF PRIVACY, a Fringe Fest offering by New Paradise Laboratories. (Photo credit: Fess Elliot)

Whit MacLaughlin, the creative force behind New Paradise Laboratories, has grown with the Philly Fringe Festival, offering his interdisciplinary take on modern issues for several years. This year’s offering, EXTREMELY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF PRIVACY PARTS 1, 2, & 3 is a classic example of the style of this experimental company.

We are first introduced to EXTREMELY PUBLIC DISPLAYS with Part 1, which takes place entirely on the Internet at Allow yourself about an hour to take in all of the videos and other displays at the site. Click on the first E in Extremely and begin your journey into the lives of Fess Elliot (Annie Enneking) and Beatrix Luff (Brittany Freece, voice by Mary Tuimanen.) Fess is a 44 year old schoolteacher, married mother of 3, who left a burgeoning music career in her early 20’s due to a loss of confidence. Beatrix is a 22 year old free spirit about whom we learn little else. Fess and Beatrix meet online, and the journey is underway.

Part two of this tale is more interactive…you download 7 videos from iTunes or reserve a device from New Paradise Labs and go on a walking tour of the Rittenhouse Square area, guided by Fess as she performs tasks given to her by Beatrix…a condition set by Beatrix before allowing Fess to meet her in person.

Part 3 takes place at a secret location…you meet at 17th and Sansom and are escorted to the bunker hideaway that Fess has built to exorcise Beatrix from her mind and restore her life. Part concert, part backstory, part stream of consciousness, Fess tells you about her life and experiences through stories and her music. The audience is invited into the bunker and Fess talks directly to them, sharing pictures of her family, requesting assistance with a zipper and inviting some to smell a lemon and ginger concoction. All in all, it is a very intimate evening.

In addition to the above multimedia excursions, you are invited to “friend” Beatrix and Fess on Facebook, Twitter and various blogs to get more of the story. It’s a comprehensive voyeuristic journey into the lives of two very different women.

Whit MacLaughlin and his creative team (Jorge Cousineau, Annie Enneking, Brittany Freece, and Larry Loebell) have assembled a total multidisciplinary experience, inventing two lives, families, encounters, and anything else one might imagine. Looking at Fess’ and Beatrix’ Facebook pages, they interact with their online friends, keeping in character and furthering the story. Music, sound and video design were very professionally done. The bunker is a fascinating construction with floor to ceiling projection screens along the outside, tin-covered walls inside, with oriental rugs strewn about on the floor, multiple guitars, mics, a drum set and furniture pieces seemingly-randomly placed throughout, yet each serves a purpose as the story unfolds.

EXTREMELY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF PRIVACY as a theatre piece may be lacking in some areas…there isn’t sufficient backstory to satisfy the curiosity of the theatre goer, for instance…but as a performance adventure, as it is billed, it satisfies greatly. The adventure is part mystery, part love story, part voyeuristic exercise, and engages the audience on many different levels. It certainly delivers a strong message about the virtual world and how it can overwhelm us individually and collectively. Suspend your disbelief and join Fess and Beatrix on their journey.

By Jorge Cousineau, Annie Enneking, Brittany Freece, Larry Lowbell, and Whit MacLaughlin
Music and Lyrics by Annie Enneking
Directed by Whit MacLaughlin
Part 1 – running through October 1, 2011, all hours, on your computer
Part 2 – running through October 1, 2011, all hours, on your portable device
Part 3 – running through October 1, 2011, check website for times and dates, undisclosed location
New Paradise Laboratories

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