A few days ago, I hit the three month mark into my fellowship now, and am gearing up for the opening of Peregrine: Balboa Park, an unexpected but thrilling project I conceived of during my time here.
One of the most significant things that I have been struck by in San Diego is Balboa Park, where the Old Globe is situated. Its a beautiful park that houses not only the Old Globe, but over a dozen museums, a botanical garden, the famous San Diego zoo, a Japanese garden, and numerous other performing venues including a large organ pavilion. Its breathtaking in its diversity of locales and its Spanish and Latin American inspired architecture. Its a location steeped in history, including two world’s fairs, but I think it is also a place where you can physically see a representation of our world today. The old and new colliding with each other: sometimes seamlessly melding together, other times forming jagged pieces that don’t quite fit together. Balboa Park is a place where you can see various cultures and traditions old and new having a conversation and where man and nature themselves seem to both co-exist and challenge each other. In short, you can say I was inspired by the locale immensely and since my first visit in March, I have been trying to think of what kind of theatrical experience I could create that would utilize the park environs.
Well after many, many conversations and countless meanderings in the park what has come to fruition is Peregrine: Balboa Park. A migratory theatrical journey where the audience is invited to walk along two paths through Balboa Park and have a theatrical experience come to life around them. Once the ideas of doing a project in the park came to focus, I approached playwright Lauren Yee and producer Heide Janssen, both collaborators I have worked with before to join me. What we agreed about Peregrine was we wanted it to be specific to the park and its history. I was also interested in incorporating technology into the performance. As well as creating an experience where the lines between theater and everyday life are blurred and so I spent a lot of time observing the park and who populated it. One of the main things I kept noticing was the number of couples in the park there to have their wedding pictures taken, Lauren took note of the older couples who wandered the park in the evenings together hand in hand. Together we came up with a list of shared characters if you will for our individual tracks. We knew we wanted our two pieces to converge by local rather than by literally splitting up two stories.
What the finished product has become is an experience where audience members are sent one of two tracks that they are to download to a mp3 listening device. Once they arrive at meeting point, we separate them into one of two paths, The Academic or Land of Rocky. They then are given a map of their route and led by escorts to the starting place of their journeys. Once an audience member pushes go on their mp3 player they are then in what we called a 360 experience where theater can happen anywhere around you. Ultimately the two paths ended up converging at a fountain in the park.
Its been an incredibly rewarding experience. In the end a company of over 20 came together around the project and I am so thankful to the folks at the Old Globe for allowing me to create theater outside of traditional theatrical walls and to also take a risk artistically and work in a way I have never before. We had one preview last week and I am looking forward to the next three days of performances. Below are some of the images from the experience.