STRATA: The Pathway to Personal Enlightenment Begins Here -School of Art - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, August 10, 2012

STRATA: The Pathway to Personal Enlightenment Begins Here

A two-hour investment may reap you a lifetime of returns, but this isn’t any sort of cash-and-carry deal you’ve ever considered.  Instead, your investment is time and the most essential prop is an open mind.

STRATA Pittsburgh, a performance which has been called “challenging, daring and disorienting” by reviewers, attracted quite a few people; selling out its one-month run from Aug. 1 through Sept. 1, 2012.   

STRATA got its start when School of Art alumni Riley Harmon (MFA '12) was introduced to Bricolage Production’s Tami Dixon (BFA ’96) and Jeff Carpenter, while Harmon was developing his master’s thesis at Carnegie Mellon.  He wanted to pursue a live action role-play (LARP) performance whereby theater attendees became part of the experience.  The LARP concept of integrating audiences into the actualization of a theater production has grown steadily in popularity among performance companies, highlighted recently by Punchdrunk’s critically acclaimed New York City production titled “Sleep No More”.

“We think [STRATA's] popularity spread because people truly became part of it and continued the story after it was over,” Harmon said.  “Physically, you might invest two hours for one show, but from the time you purchase your ticket, you are in the experience.”

From the initial meeting and concept development, Harmon said, the components of STRATA (Strategic Training Research and Testing Agency) pulled together naturally. “It was almost as if they built themselves,” Harmon said.

“When we found the building (an old movie theater with a fitness club built on top) we realized we were making a parallel reality to the original space.  Together, we shaped the show, but the audience participation changes the experience every day."

STRATA also featured involvement from Harmon’s fellow CMU School of Art graduate, Nina Sarnelle (MFA’12), an interdisciplinary performance artist. As an artist collaborator with STRATA, Sarnelle helped to devise and craft the show during planning/pre-production meetings. During production, we broke up the show into sections that different people directed/designed, so I also was in charge of conceptualizing/scripting/designing a specific portion of the show,” she said.  The concept worked, and through positive media reviews and a lot of word-of-mouth buzz, STRATA sold out.

ARTIST WEBSITES: Riley Harmon, Nina Sarnelle

Additional Carnegie Mellon alumni appearing in or associated with STRATA:  Tracey Turner (BFA Drama ’85); Tami Dixon (BFA Drama ’96); and Corinne Neal (MA ’10).


STRATA is probably the most ambitious theater event in local history - Pittsburgh City Paper

The search for iConsciousness has already begun -  Playwitness

Bricolage’s ‘Strata’ creates unique works - Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Best of Culture: August - Pittsburgh Magazine