My STRATA Experience

“Somewhere between truth and fiction, reality and simulation, STRATA is an immersive urban adventure unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.” (Quotation from stratapittsburgh.com and the Bricolage Production Company)

What is STRATA? STRATA is the newest theatrical production from the Bricolage Production Company. STRATA is “Pittsburgh’s first refitnessing center”, where the STRATA cast members will coach participants to “iConsciousness.” Pittsburgh’s City Paper named STRATA “the most ambitious theater event in local history”, and I whole-heartedly agree.

Still confused? I will attempt to provide some clarity. STRATA is an acronym for Strategic Training Research And Testing Agency. Bricolage collaborated with lead artist Riley Harmon, Clear Story and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to bring the STRATA vision to life.

iConsciousness means: 1) illumination, 2) immersion and 3) infinity. This is STRATA’s recommended path towards a peaceful and authentic life. How does one reach iConsciousness? A STRATA participant will reach iConsciousness through Gateway Corporation’s (fake owners of STRATA) refitnessing program. What does it mean to be refitnessed? Allow me to explain.

My STRATA experience began 24 hours after I purchased tickets. Bricolage e-mailed me with further instructions on STRATA. They advised that I meet either a man or woman with a red hat at a secret time and location in downtown Pittsburgh. Also, I was required to watch an introductory video and complete a six- question survey.

Next, my level works partner and I (this is what STRATA calls your friend, family member or significant other whom accompanied you) met one of the STRATA agents at the secret meet-up location. Next, we were transferred to another STRATA agent, who gave us a written memory test. Then, we were lead to the STRATA facilities. We received a warm welcome from the STRATA staff. Once we listened to a few words of affirmation, my level works partner and I were escorted to the elevator and we met our first STRATA refitnessing coach. She was an eccentric archivist who had lost her cat. Apparently, she had some incriminating photos of me in her file! Even so, the archivist was displeased with my commentary. She decided to send me to the next refitnessing coach: a poker player! Then, I realized that I would not see my friend again until the end of the STRATA experience.

Besides the archivist and the poker player, I also encountered: a peep show host, a doctor, nurses, a gym teacher, a call girl on the phone, a young girl with a swing and a bathroom attendant. During the STRATA journey, I experienced a plethora of emotions: 1) happiness, 2) playfulness, 3) nostalgia, 4) sympathy, 5) disgust/shock, 6) nervousness, 7) surprise, 8) calm, 9) relief and 10) accomplishment. The most intriguing aspect of STRATA: you, the participant, are the star of the show. Each refitnessing coach knows your name. I improvised with each actor, and in return, they taught me a little bit about myself. Eventually, I reached a dark room with mirrored walls, where I was left to meditate. Then, I discovered a white door; my level works partner opened the door and informed me that Freddy (the host for the evening) wished to speak with me. Afterwards, I was congratulated for reaching iConsciousness; I rocked out to my personal theme song as I enjoyed a complimentary beverage from Freddy. Talk about a grand finale!

I was impressed with everything, from the acting, to the costumes, the sets, the lighting, and the talent of the cast, crew and staff. I’m amazed at the STRATA concept all together. Five days after STRATA, I continue to analyze and reminisce about the experience. It’s evident that Bricolage poured their hearts and souls into this production. This passion was transferred to the ticket holders; due to popular demand, Bricolage created additional timeslots for a few of the STRATA performance dates. Several of the performance dates were sold out (including the final week of STRATA).

The best part of the STRATA experience: I spoke to a gentleman who was experiencing STRATA for the second time. He and his friends traveled all the way from New York City to see STRATA. He informed me that he has neither seen nor experienced a theater production as original as STRATA. This is the ultimate compliment and testament to Pittsburgh. Thanks to companies such as Bricolage, tourists are flocking to Pittsburgh to receive their “cultural fix.” Bricolage (along with other Pittsburgh cultural, artistic and culinary establishments) is one of the reasons why Pittsburgh is a “must-see” city to visit! I am ecstatic to witness the rebirth of Pittsburgh and I am honored to call Pittsburgh my hometown. My parting words are directed towards Jeffrey Carpenter and Tami Dixon (Artistic Directors and Owners of Bricolage): I wish to see a STRATA 2 in 2013!