Submersive Productions is a collaborative artworks company that creates original, site-specific immersive works where artists and audiences engage together at the intersection of histories, mythologies and the immediate experience. The company was formed in 2015 to produce the spring and fall editions of “The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe” earning a Best of Baltimore award for BEST THEATER EXPERIENCE (City Paper). The company has since produced over a dozen original works, including the award-winning “H.T. Darling’s Incredible Musaeum” in 2017, 2019’s “MASS/ RABBLE” at the Baltimore War Memorial and “See Also” at the George Peabody Library in 2020.
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Friday, March 24
Ongoing through April 30
Ongoing through April 30
- The Peale Center
- 225 North Holliday Street
- Baltimore, MD 21202
In late March 2023, Submersive Productions will debut “Katalepsis,” their first indoor immersive theatrical experience since 2020, in the newly renovated Peale Center.
“Katalepsis” will invite audience members into a world set many generations into the future, when humans are no longer the dominant life form on Earth. Three Creators have been tasked to generate creative content for mysterious Benefactors, who support their work. Relying on help from audience members, who appear to them as “holo-beings” from the past, the characters of “Katalepsis” search for fulfillment, connection, and a way forward.
“Most of our past projects looked to history for inspiration,” says Glenn Ricci, Co-Artistic Director of Submersive and member of the four-person Core Team that guided this production through its many phases. “This time we thought why not go into the future? Way, way into the future, after the apocalypse has fully played out.” He laughed, “But, of course, we learned that everything is influenced by the past.”
“Believe it or not, the initial idea came prior to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Susan Stroupe, a member of the Core Team. “At the time, it felt like people were becoming more isolated by choice while using social media to try to feel connected. There was talk of a ‘loneliness epidemic.’ Then came the shutdowns from Covid-19 and we all got to experience isolation and loneliness to some degree. ‘Katalepsis’ takes that isolation to its logical end and explores how one could thrive and create in a time and place where human culture has seismically changed.”
In 2021, the company unveiled “rECHOllection,” an outdoor experience in Druid Hill Park that invited audience members into the year 2032 as the Earth was beginning to push back against humankind in force. A virus evolved to cross between computers and humans, rendering computers useless and forcing humans to find other ways to connect without physical contact. “Katalepsis” jumps from that timeline hundreds of years forward, when humankind has dwindled. Themes of isolation and climate change are part of the story, but so too are explorations of creativity as resilience and inventing new ways to be a part of community, even in dire circumstances.
“Katalepsis” is being devised through Submersive’s own style of collaboration, eschewing the roles of author or director in favor of contributions from a team of roughly twenty performers and visual artists. Many of the contributors serve multiple roles on the production, and all are encouraged to participate in areas outside their designated role. The production and process is guided and shaped by a Core Creative Team: Mika Nakano, Glenn Ricci, Trustina Sabah, and Susan Stroupe. They are joined by long-time Submersive collaborators Helen Garcia-Alton (Lighting Design), Deana Brill (Costume Design), Francisco Benavides (Performer), Hannah Fenster (Performer), Ursula Marcum (Performer/Designer), Jess Rassp (Performer/Designer), Lisi Stoessel (Performer/Designer), Mara Wild (Showrunner), and Tara Cariaso (Workshop Leader); and by newer arrivals Chloe Azcuy (Student Intern), Tyler Brust (Technical Director), Griffin DeLisle (Showrunner), Joshua Hne (Performer/Designer), Debra Lenik (Showrunner), Megan Livingston (Performer), Tessara Morgan (Production Manager), and Bao Nguyen (Performer).
“We’ve been working on this project for over three years and it’s changed maybe a dozen times. But we keep coming back to human connection and how our essential creativity sets us apart from other beings,” said Trustina Sabah.
While they do not want to reveal everything about characters they are calling The Benefactors, they will say that it has something to do with mushrooms. “Oh yes, we realized if anything will survive, thrive, and take over the planet after us, it is fungus. My work on this show has been inspired in part by The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing,” says Mika Nakano. “The author makes the point ‘It’s not about looking at the past to look forward, it’s looking at the past to look around.’ This, to me, is what immersive theatre is all about. This time, we’re imagining the future in hopes that the audience can look around and see our world in a new way.”
The Peale Center is Baltimore’s Community Museum, housed in the oldest museum building in the United States. The Peale’s mission is to create a place where physical and digital exhibition spaces are accessible to everyone, where community members and students can take creative risks, connect with fellow collaborators, and share their stories about Baltimore and beyond.
“Katalepsis” is made possible through the Creative Baltimore award, which is provided by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts on behalf of the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. Thanks also to The Puffin Foundation and the Nora Roberts Foundation for their support of this project.
Katalepsis logo graphic: https://submersiveproductions.
Submersive Web Site: https://submersiveproductions.
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