“The thing about the past is, the more we open up to its questions, the more we learn about ourselves” – Rio Records. I click various objects on my screen investigating what I can when my screen changes; a beautiful sketch appears in front of me filled with numerous drawings saturated in color. I stare at it for a moment, admiring the art, then I notice that the drawing of the house is glowing. I click on the house and a number appears. I hurry and dial it and on the other side are two voices reciting poetry. They speak of a dream-like poem about a concrete river.
13 EXP has teamed up with River LA to bring together an immersive journey from the past, present, and future of the L.A. River. In the second series of shows from the Rio Reveals campaign (The first was Firefly Nights, a preview for donors that took place in-person at the river), Rio Records invites you to choose your own adventure in this sandbox-styled online immersive adventure. Participants embark on an 80-minute experience combining music, art, design, history, storytelling, and collaborations among many artists. Joining this adventure is as simple as having access to the internet and Zoom — as you will be using their built-in website for the first portion and Zoom for the second. Audiences may also want to keep their phone nearby, as they will have the option of using it during the show. This completely online experience is interactive and gives you the opportunity to participate as much or as little as you want to in your exploration of the L.A. River, allowing audiences of all immersive levels to enjoy themselves.
A Connected River
Rio Records is the exploration of mythical stories based on the culture and the real history focused around the L.A. River. Leading this journey is the fun, welcoming, and punny geologist, Dr. Alison Vincent, Ph.D. She is both eager and excited to be finishing her dissertation—and even more excited to share her passion for the L.A. River. Dr. Alison tells us of the stories she has found, but also that there are untold stories and voices yearning to be heard, and we have the unique opportunity to explore them with her. In Rio Records, Dr. Alison presents all her evidence and their relation to a mysterious person named “V.” Through the journey, we are essential to putting together the pieces and uncover the story of Rio Records.
In this immersive experience, you are given the agency to choose 1 of 5 paths along the river. While not much information is given regarding each path, each is exciting and unique—so use the sketches and questions provided to choose whichever adventure calls to you. Personally, I chose to go on the path of Bette, who was suspected of having a relationship with the unknown V. Throughout your investigation, you can spend as little or as much time as you want exploring the path you chose. You will eavesdrop on conversations from the past, listen to melodies that are masterfully crafted, call and listen to characters (all live actors) who will tell their stories, and talk to other participants about what you have each uncovered.
Throughout the show, one thing is apparent: we are apart, yet we are together. Although you are investigating your path on your own, you are calling in at times with other participants, sharing what you have found, and also interacting with live actors playing characters who have their own relationship with the river. This theme of connection resonates strongly throughout because although we all have our own individual paths, we all are connected — just like the stories and history along the L.A. River.
Rio Records invites you to take a different look at the river, to see the stories that have been left by generations past, and to learn of new stories that are just unfolding. We are encouraged to listen to the voices and stories of the past so we may make a better future for all of us. There is so much history to the river, and that history is still being made. Our choices have an impact on the river and its future.
The Depth of a River
Rio Records utilizes technology masterfully and has built an impressive website that is able to provide and support all the content that the show has to offer. The designs are flawless, and the interface is intuitive, easy to use, and has a lot of fun options with which to interact. The music is beautifully crafted and fits the themes of each exploration. You feel the powerful voices left along the river through each song. Each track has 4 acts, which all run at different lengths. Each track is crafted by different writers, all of whom have put careful details into their stories, creating heartwarming, thought-provoking, and entertaining pieces.
You may find a deep story or you may find only surface level interactions depending on how engaged you are and how deep you explore. This is an experience that definitely rewards repeatability, offering players a chance to return again and choose a different path to explore and connect more pieces of the history of the river. Every experience is completely unique, which is just one of the many wonders that there are to Rio Records.
To further support the strong stories, the acting is phenomenal and each actor really draws you in and encourages active participation. The performers are also very funny and made the show a joy to watch. Participants will get the chance to interact with actors as they wade through the river’s past, present, and future.
Further, audiences are given the opportunity to take an active role in guiding of the future of the river. This unique aspect gives a sense of ownership to the audiences, further connecting all participants to the story being told. No matter where you choose to explore, you will be welcomed by incredible art, music, and stories along the way.
Rio Records brings together culture, community, art, music, and storytelling for an innovative and thought-provoking experience. I was moved and felt fulfilled after my time with the experience. Rio Records captures the sensation of nostalgia, along with beauty, imagination, and the power of choice. With beautiful dancing, magnetic acting, intriguing storytelling, and wonderfully orchestrated scores, this experience offers a something for everyone—and truly allows you to take your time to consume your path and leave your mark on it. The future of the L.A. River is calling you — walk along the river and uncover its stories.
Rio Records is running until February 7th and your ticket purchase will help support River LA — a nonprofit organization bringing nature, water, and people together across the 51 miles of the L.A. River.
For more information about Rio Records, check out their website, Facebook or Twitter. For more Remote Experiences similar to Rio Records, check out our Remote Immersive Experiences Guide or our Event Calendar.