I’ve been very interested in immersive theater lately. New York and San Francisco have had shows where you can walk around but I’ve had more trouble finding experiences in Los Angeles. Cue “The Industry” who put on “Invisible Cities” last year. It is exciting because it happened in a public and not an enclosed, private space. They put on a full opera with a symphony at the beautiful Union Station where you walked around with bluetooth Sennheiser headphones and followed wherever your attention went as the singers wandered through the real life drama of the station. Sadly it was sold out by the time I heard about it. I managed to find out they were running a free show at the Hammer Museum in April and was very excited to catch it. They performed Terry Riley’s In C in the main courtyard with inflatable tube men, a symphony, singers, and dancers. The Hammer Museum went completely free this year so this made it even more of an easy and delightful activity on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The Hammer Museum courtyard is a lush two story open air space that is beautiful to walk around in without a show going on. I walked in during intermission and there were only two xylophone players and a drummer. It seemed more magical that new elements appeared out of what felt like nowhere. The music was minimalist in a way where I could have sat the entire afternoon listening to it meditatively. We walked around both floors to get different views on what was going on and were pleasantly surprised as performers appeared in every direction around us.
I was too enthralled to take pictures of the dancers as they wove their way into the audience individually and started dancing. People didn’t always realize there was stuff occurring behind them. The dancers would wander in and out of spots in the audience to perform. When they were separate, each dancer had their own style as they mimicked the tube men. When they congregated they would follow each others leads and do some synchronized scenes.
The singers in the middle were making some fun sounds that felt like beatboxing. That certainly is not something I expected in a form like opera, which I always thought of as stodgy. This performance turned all of that on its head. They all looked like they were genuinely having fun, laughing and smiling throughout the show. People would approach performers when they were on short breaks to talk to them. I even saw friends and family approach with hugs. I like how casual and friendly this felt.
To heighten the whimsical nature, there was a guy on what appears to be a toy piano. At the end of the show, I realized that this is probably the director of The Industry, Yuval Sharon. I liked that there was a general uniform but everyone looked like they just grabbed what they had in their closets. It really made them blend in to the audience when they chose to.
At some point while standing on the second floor I thought I heard someone belting out loudly behind me. It turns out some of the singers were sent walking around. Soon we realized the performers were all wearing white or cream shaded shirts. I chased around various performers but most people seemed to completely ignore the performers in their area.
I was impressed with how clear and loud these singers were. I thought her popped collar hid a microphone. No, she just has some crazy lungs. It is an interesting sound to hear these wandering singers come in and out of your range and echo off the courtyard.
I loved that the dancers were around the audience all the time but it made me wonder two things. One, why didn’t any kids get involved as they were running around and dancing? Two, did they hit anyone ever? Turns out both things happened! You can see a little kid joining the group in the video.
Take a bow, inflatable tube men. It was really fun to see so many different elements drawing my attention in so many directions. At one point I stood around trying to grab inflatable tubes as they whipped around unpredictably hitting the second floor. I’m really glad I caught this show and I’m looking forward to what this group puts out next. I can’t say I’ve watched an opera before this but if they are more like this, I would watch more.