​​ASU Dean to Present Immersive Theatre Piece in Madrid

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By Hazel Scott/ASU

Dr. Kathaleen Amende, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, made her mark in Madrid when she traveled there to present her immersive theatre piece, “Fade to Black.”

“There is something very gratifying about taking something like this to a completely different culture and seeing how that culture interprets your work,” said Amende. “I don’t write plays in the sense that most people mean them. I write immersive theatre pieces that are essentially collaborative storytelling between the author, me, and the participants who are also the audience at the same time,” she explained.

“Fade to Black” is described as “a surreal existential exploration of the meaning of life, love and family. It’s about living in an environment with limited privacy, about the unreliability of memory, and the lengths we go to in order to preserve what we know. It's a psychological, immersive, and collaborative experience, and an opportunity to explore what happens when memories fade, but feelings remain, and the only way to escape another's presence is to disappear into nothingness.”

Immersive theatre is mainstream in various European countries, Amende noted, but is still emerging in the United States. Referred to as “Emerging larping,” the art form encourages audience participation in the creative process, making them an integral part of the performance. Audience members are given active roles and responsibilities in shows.

Amende, who describes herself as a “Larpwright” instead of a playwright, said her piece has been presented overseas in Stockholm at the Stockholm  Fringe Festival, Copenhagen and Spain. “Fade to Black” also ran Off Broadway in New York City. Larp stands for Live Action Role Play, an immersive experience for social change.

“When it was presented Off Broadway, they shortened the name to just ‘Fade.’ The piece…has been asked to be performed at festivals and venues in Europe,” she added.  “I hope my immersive play changes the way we experience a live performance.”

Amende pointed out that it is important to her that people realize immersive theatre is an art form no less than any other kind of theatre.

“I have been on the forefront of bringing this form of experience to the United States.  One day, when this is as mainstream here as it is in Europe, I can look back and say, ’I helped do that!,’" she said.