On the “haunt” scene, ALONE stands alone.
Yep, I said it.
They burst on the scene in 2013, causing much confusion among haunt fans due to a web page that seemed very similar to another popular haunt and had people demanding on Facebook to know if they were actually an off-shoot of someone else or were they actually new to the scene. A couple years later, they have certainly defined themselves as completely unique – an off shoot of no other event and willing – indeed, embracing – being different from everyone else around.
Part of their uniqueness and strength is that they cannot be defined.
Part haunt, part immersive theater, part performance art piece, they continually reinvent themselves every few events and make drastic shifts in tone and content as if defying anyone to understand who they are or what they want to be when they grow up. This event seems to be on a journey that is constantly altering its course and I am glad I am along for the ride.
Currently underway is a four-part series of performances originally announced as “ALONE: Unweave the Rainbow.” There was an offer to purchase all four parts, called The Four Indices, offering you guaranteed tickets and priority entry to the four events with the titles of Diffusion, Refraction, Reflection and Absorption. All of these are references to the properties of light and how it behaves.
The first event, ALONE: Diffusion, took place in June. Out of respect for the event and Alone’s style and tone, I will not divulge explicit details in case future patrons have the chance to experience similar shows.
As the June show began, the theme of ALONE: Diffusion became immediately apparent with a rather stilted and stiffly acted scene referencing the famous Salem witch trials – an event resulting from ideas being spread both innocently and maliciously through a community. For this entire show, the concept of ideas spreading from person to person were at work in every sequence. Following a creative – and very drawn out – entrance into the “meat” of the show, you found yourself exploring dark hallways, roughly grabbed from behind, then moved into various rooms, each with a different overall tone. My personal favorite was a completely dark area with a voice suggesting that if I was lost, I should retrace my steps to discover where I came from… a challenge in the darkness. I found myself exploring the small room completely by touch as I was trying to decipher the meaning of what I was being told. This simple premise provided the most intense emotions of the night, for me. I was then roughly moved into a room with many other patrons of the show. This room featured each of us being assigned a task to perform that may or may not affect other patrons. The concept was interesting (and very reminiscent of performance art pieces being done on the east coast in the mid-2000’s), but in practice it led to frustration and then… boredom. My task actually encouraged me not to engage with other patrons, and therefore, other patrons did not engage with me. At times, others joined us and others were led away but the effect was that this room had very little meaning and had nothing to say. In my opinion, this room was more about crowd control and flow than about being a performance. I do realize there was an attempt to have ideas “diffuse” through the crowd, but it seemed to fall flat.
Following this, there were several sequences where I was abruptly grabbed and moved from one location to another. I had cloth around me and over me, I was given more instructions and shoved into another room with others. In this room, the instructions seemed pointless because as I tried to find an item I was told to look for, a cast member sidetracked me and had me lay down on a table – which is where I spent the majority of the scene. Once again – not emotionally engaged or interacting with others. Suddenly, I was shuffled toward a door and pushed out of the experience. The end.
Such a communal show can sometimes be gauged by the communal reaction. Once outside, many people I know were standing around comparing their experiences. Come to find out, I received two rooms that a good friend was rushed past and did not get to experience at all. He was given information during a dialogue with one actress that I never heard, in a room I never entered. The entire show seemed to be wildly different for each of us – a point of excitement and absolute frustration at the same time.
With the point being how information is passed through a mass, well… I guess the show was well designed to illustrate this point. As a patron, I do find fault with a basic result; I felt nothing. I was never emotionally struck or moved by any sequence except for a little thrill while exploring a dark room on my own and that emotion was brought up by my own interpretation rather than anything the cast was doing. For a show promising “Real World Experiments in Human Emotion,” it seemed emotion was the key element lacking for most scenes in this entry for this particular audience member. I was happy to learn some of my friends had a more positive experience.
Some of my friends who attended thoroughly enjoyed the show because they wound up in a couple of the rooms with each other. In my situation, I shared a couple of scenes with friends, but we did not interact with each other due to the instructions each of us received. So, if I was left with anything, I was left with feelings of frustration and boredom. Even if I understood the point – if I did not feel emotionally engaged by a single cast member during the entire show – was that show a success?
The second part, ALONE: Refraction, took place early August during Scare LA, a Halloween/haunt convention in Pasadena, CA. This immediately caused consternation among several ALONE ticket holders I spoke with during that convention. We purchased tickets to the ALONE show weeks prior to this, and then we found out that the show we are to attend was only taking place during the hours of another event, which we have also purchased tickets to attend.
After some frustration of dealing with a completely uninformed and confused ALONE representative on the first day of the event, I attended the show mid-afternoon on the second day.
This show actually retained a similar structure to the previous entry of the four-part series, but was much more successful for me. After another frustrating beginning that felt much more about crowd control than conveying anything emotional, the show actually moved well and had much to offer. This time, being maneuvered in the dark was not about isolation and separation, which is how the previous show felt.
ALONE: Refraction became about connection and transference. As I entered one room, I was startled by a cast member who needed to get me to change my direction of movement. The physicality was jarring and exciting. I found myself entering a scene where one patron was ending and my scene overlapped into his. We connected. The actress connected with both of us. He left, I remained. When the next patron entered behind me, I felt the urge to reach out and invite him to join the scene, connections were being made. As I was resting on the floor, an actress gave me a small token to carry with me as I exited the scene. In one room, a person began adjusting my clothing – adding things to my appearance and placing things in my pockets. An aggressive man evaluated me silently before violently positioning me among fellow patrons – covering my eyes and leaving me in darkness to ponder our connection. This type of interaction worked well in this show where I feel it failed in the previous installment. In the end, a very touching moment was provided when I was encouraged to offer support, even tenderness, to a fellow patron of the show. Feeling awkward at first, this turned into a genuine expression of friendship as we were ushered out of the darkness and into daylight.
Was the second installment a success? For the most part, yes. Still, I have the issue of emotional engagement with the beginning sequence. That opening sequence lacked the ability to move me or allow me to emotionally connect to anything. I did feel emotionally connected when I faced an actress who took my hand and led me to the start of my mini-adventure in the darkest portion of the show. She helped me find some sort of emotional connection that had been missing up until I encountered her.
Even though I am expressing frustration and disappointment, it needs to be perfectly clear – I consider ALONE the most intriguing event going on in the “haunt” world of Los Angeles. The journey they are on, as frustrating and (sometimes) poorly managed (in my opinion) as it may be, is utterly fascinating. The fact they they are referencing fascinating and controversial performance artists of the past and using a discussion about light to encourage us to examine our daily social interactions with friends and strangers all adds up to a sometimes thrilling concoction.
When they are firing on all cylinders they are an exciting, goofy, heady roller coaster of fun. When they fail – they are fascinating, even if not emotionally engaging.
After attending one of their events, I find myself pondering it for days, trying to decipher aspects of it that affected me – or confused me.
And that is why I am excited to attend the next two installments of The Four Indices titled Reflection and Absorption Like the best journeys in life, there have been bumps in this road, but the sense that I am going somewhere new and exciting in the near future certainly has me looking forward to going it ALONE again.
General ticket sales for the next ALONE installment, “Unweave the Rainbow / Index of Reflection,” go on sale September 7th, join their email list for a chance at earlier access.
I highly recommend you get on board and ride this rainbow wherever it may be heading. Even if you find this experience is not for you, there will be no denying it’s uniqueness. There is value in the experimentation.
Check out ALONE at