project. The Last Party
media. Immersive Event
I've historically thrown large parties for my birthday, but in November of 2016 there didn't seem to be much cause for celebration. However, I knew that after a contentious election, coming together would feel better than isolation. I wanted to reflect and engage the feeling of helplessness that myself and many of my friends were experiencing.
The world we knew had died - so I threw The Last Party, an intimate immersive experience for my closest friends. Or, to speak correctly, Lady Areté threw the party on my behalf.
Excellence is my middle name. No -- really. My parents gave me the middle name "Areté," which, in ancient Greek, means "excellence -- as defined by fulfilling your unique individual purpose and living up to your full potential."
I took this idea and world-built around it, setting the party between the spirit and physical worlds and Lady Areté as one of a group of spirits whose role it is to host the party between life and death. According to my mythology, each person's being is made of up of a series of glowing threads floating in a clear, glass-like bubble. When you die, you attend your Last Party and must make the choice whether to return to the living world or permanently pass onto the spirit realm. If you choose to return to the physical world, as you exit the party your bubble disappears and all the threads of you spread far and wide, each element of you entering other living beings. One of these threads is golden, while all the rest are silver -- this thread is your core Areté, the potential playing itself towards expression in you. This golden thread, your Areté, also enters into a new living being and continues it's journey towards achieving full expression -- my mythology's version of reincarnation. You don't get reincarnated -- your purpose does -- with the goal of moving closer and and closer to actualization. These story ideas were dripped in throughout clues the last week leading up to the party.
The series of events:
Each guest was mailed the invitation above, which did not provide the address for the event.
After R.S.V.P.ing with a baby picture, they received a response email with a website url, but upon going to that url were greeted with a password protected site. Hours later, each received a cryptic rhyming message from an anonymous phone number. When they deciphered the word hidden in the seemingly randomly capitalized letters, they had discovered the password for the site.
Once inside, each guest had to answer a series of questions.
Upon completion of these questions, they were asked to email Lady Areté their favorite word. People chose everything from "verdant" and "mellifluous" to "forest" and "squish."
In response to that offering, they received an email with a near-sonnet of rhyming couplets, describing that The Last Party occurred between the physical and the spiritual realm, and posing them a riddle. Beneath was a number of seeming disparate sentences:
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream
and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
All this happened, more or less.
What about the teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when
the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle
pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me.
If the guest figured out that these were all first lines of novels, and then wrote the novels out in order, the first letter of each novel, strung together, spelled out "MELROSE AND VINE." One more clue gave them a new password to the website to use when they arrived at that intersection the night of the party.
The site had been transformed into a series of clue directions which led them along a winding pathway (...between Melrose and Vine & Melrose and Gower...) to find hidden treasure - a tiny chest of hidden coins with messages inscribed.
They were asked to choose one which spoke to them and present it to Lady Areté to confirm their arrival at the space between worlds. Along the way they were asked to take unusual actions -- such as doing something unusual on the street and not filming it -- which led, apparently, to a spontaneous group performance of "All That Jazz."
Upon arrival at their final destination, Pour Vous, each guest was asked to "decide" if they would return to the world as it is, or pass on permanently to the spirit realm. If they were to return to the living, they provided an offering -- anonymously writing on each side of a small card something that they would commit to doing this year, and something that they would give up.
Each was presented with a 'party favor,' an envelope containing their Areté -- their unique strength, their potential -- their "Greek middle name" -- and a small token (such as a copper pen nib, or clock face) reflecting their personality. The bar served a "Last Party" champagne cocktail (a twist on the French 72) and had a great DJ and aerial burlesque performances set to live music.
As a thank you to the group after the party, I wrote the letter below, which used each of their favorite words:
If we shadows have offended
Think but this and all is mended:
Though unexpected cold was a vexation
I hope this game caused some elation
I'm still at the level of apprentice,
But try, like Puck, to create tempests
Some squishes 'long the way - expected
If you pardon, they'll be corrected.
In this shaky, troubled time,
I leaned upon mellifluous rhyme -
to try to find a way to speak,
When words alone are proving weak.
For in this forest of our lives,
Verdant, or bare, we must strive.
The future may crepuscular seem, but
We'll still endeavor to realize our dreams.
And while we can be quite sesquipedalian,
Remember we grew out of the reptilian
From the dinosaurs we came -
Things change - they cannot stay the same -
Before them, pudding - then, a spark.
And one day again it will be pure dark.
Till then talk hard, be provocative,
Make art that is of love evocative
We'll sing in tabernacles that look like bars
To celebrate the lives that are.
It's serendipity that we met -
And your promise and sacrifice I won't forget.
Justice indeed is worth the fight.
Let's not go gentle. And with that, goodnight.
Thank you, thank you, for your play.
Yours till time ends,