What Do You Need?
What does site-specific immersive theater mean when everyone is confined to their homes? For Capital W’s donation-based What Do You Need? series, it means bespoke meditative experiences to address the unique spiritual and mental challenges of quarantine, made from objects and spaces in the homes of the participants. Capital W uses simple household items, creative guidance, and customized music to create moments of peace and opportunities for mutual self-expression. The series showcases tremendous compassion and empathy and connects creatives and participants in a groundbreakingly intimate way, no big surprise from the company that brought us the best worst date of all time. The generosity of this experience begins at checkout. The experiences are offered at a “pay what you can” pricepoint, meaning that the showtimes fill up quickly. Throughout my experience I received check-in calls, debriefs, tailored surveys, and flexible scheduling.
The What Do You Need? series is all about facilitating grounding and introspection during this difficult time. Participants are encouraged to select an activity that resonates with them, and are guided through a highly interactive pre-show process where they describe their mood, their hopes, and their relationship to the activity at hand. The entire experience feels conversational and collaborative. Each interaction takes place over Zoom or phone, but a great deal of attention is paid to granting participants enough privacy to engage in unhindered self-expression and enough guidance to never get lost in the experience. Each offering showcases the unique talents of the creative guide, and participants are left with the sense that a mutual exchange has occurred and that a unique co-creative moment has been shared. Each experience left me truly in touch with myself, connected with a new friend, and hopeful for the future.
Dive || A Radical Bath Meditation
Dive is a grounding, meditative bathing experience that is personalized to each participant’s self-reported emotional needs. In advance of the ritual, participants fill out a survey, including questions such as “What are you seeking?” and “What element do you currently identify with most?” Monica Miklas draws on her immersive production and writing experience as well as her personal spiritual practice of cultivating ritual baths (or “witch baths,” as she calls them) to develop a truly personalized meditation. From the preparation and expectation-setting email exchange, to the empathetic “getting to know you” conversation that kicks off the experience, her intelligence and compassion permeate every moment. I particularly enjoyed our conversation on the unique intention of the word “solace,” and our musings on why so many participants reported that they usually identify with the element of water, but no participants currently identified with the element of water. After setting expectations, the participant is guided through the process of preparing their space, and then instructed to turn off the camera and microphone and to let themself be carried away by a personally written meditation. The experience is enhanced immensely by specially composed meditative soundscapes by the phenomenal Dave McKeever. The effect is grounding, inspiring, healing, and introspective, and lasts long into the rest of the day. After the experience, Monica extends follow-up calls to participants to give them the opportunity to process their experience, and to remind them to drink a ton of water!
Swim Fly Crawl || A Personal Dance Journey
Actor, poet, teacher, and dancer Martha Marion facilitates an experience that allows participants to truly get in touch with their bodies. She curates a playlist based on each participant’s goals and mood states. I gave her challenging and conflicting emotional words to work with, and she managed to prepare a playlist that brought me to tears of both grief and triumph. Martha exudes patience and empathy, allowing participants space to express their fears, concerns, and physical sensations as they prepare for their dance experience. A meditation, check-in, and stretching all occur before the camera is turned off. Martha takes time to breathe in unison with participants, syncing up intentions as well as playlists before sharing in a dance experience that is simultaneously individual and collaborative, connected by mood and music. I approached this experience feeling very awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin, but by the end of my playlist, my body had learned to take itself where it needed to go. After making it to the end of the playlist, there was an opportunity to breathe in synchronicity again as well as to process the emotions of the experience. Again, the level of empathy was profound, and the experience was truly moving and healing.
Look Out || A Noticing Walk
Writer/director Mason Flink facilitates this unique experience by helping each participant connect to the nature around them. Over the course of a guided and meditative walk ,participants are encouraged to observe the natural world around them and to seek out particular plant life that relate to meditative intentions. Mason tells beautiful stories of the roles that nature and cultivation have played in his life in times of change, grief, or uncertainty, and asks for stories in return. The open-ended meditative and tactile prompts allow participants to fill the experience with personal meaning. Mason possesses an uncanny ability to make others feel truly heard, with his infectious excitement and genuine interest in the experiences of participants. The tone of this piece is conversational, hopeful, and calming.
My Home Is a Temple || A Ritual Made for You
Artist and spiritual visionary Lauren Ludwig leads participants in a truly unique, ritual building experience. In typical “what do you need?” fashion, participants fill out a survey about their desired ritual type, goals, and emotional states. Based on the given answers, Lauren sends participants a list of objects and tools to gather from within their home. The experience begins conversationally with a check-in on mood state, a review of the chosen objects and their intentions, and a collaborative creation of a meaningful ritual. Lauren then seamlessly guides participants through a meditative and ritualistic space that allows them to connect with their intentions. Lauren excels at reflective listening and takes time to really personalize the experience based on feedback from the participant. She was not perturbed in the least when one of my ritual objects inadvertently set off the fire alarm. I declined to verbally process after the ritual, and Lauren reassured me that my response was normal, leaving her contact info for any thoughts and feelings that came up later, as well as a mantra and poem for me to reflect on in the following days. This experience was truly moving, personalized, and deeply cathartic.
The What Do You Need? experiences are defined by their immensely empathetic tone and customizability. Participants are valued and validated by each creator. The experiences are pragmatic in that they directly address the challenges of a quarantined society, and spiritual in the sense that they allow participants space for healing and self-expression. The end result, across the board, is revitalizing, unique, and compassionate. It is striking and humbling to see such talented people create such a highly individualized experience that can take place in a participant’s home. The care taken in preparing the experience, setting expectations, and getting to know each participant creates real trust and intimacy, allowing the participant to relax into an experience of curated introspection during a time when emotions run particularly high. From start to finish, Capital W truly demonstrates a selfless desire to make a struggling world just a little better.