Starting December 8th, Phoenix Tears Productions (the same people that brought you last spooky season’s Horror in Headphones) will debut their newest, interactive, virtual creation – Recovery: Cold Case! As an additional chapter in last winter’s Posthumous story, Cold Case takes us even deeper into the world of digitized souls and commercialized afterlives. Earlier this week, I had the awesome opportunity to watch a BETA show of this fascinating production. Thank you, Phoenix Tears, for inviting me to join the audience! Now, let’s explore all that you can expect from this Zoom-based show – Recovery: Cold Case!
About Phoenix Tears Productions
In case you haven’t read my previous articles about this one-of-a-kind, woman-led, theater group; let me introduce you to Phoenix Tears! Based in the Orlando area, Phoenix Tears specializes in unique, immersive performances and storytelling. I’ve had the opportunity to experience two of their theatrical styles. In both 2020’s Infected and 2021’s Horror in Headphones, the Phoenix Tears cast led audience members on a terrifying journey through realistic, 360° soundscapes while actually moving through physical environments.
And last December, I enjoyed my first Zoom-based show Posthumous – a virtual performance set in the same world as the upcoming Cold Case production. Instead of being hindered by a digital spaces, Phoenix Tears has managed to create engaging storylines and interesting characters throughout their virtual worlds. In my original coverage of last year’s Posthumous performance I wrote, “As a fan of live theater, I’ve been skeptical of Zoom shows and virtual outlets promising a performance experience. Posthumous, however, has convinced me that it is still possible to produce quality, engaging productions in a digitally distanced world. With the appropriate premise and setting, I was completely immersed into the experience and just as engaged as I would have been in a physically present performance.” And this is still true in 2021’s Recovery: Cold Case, Phoenix Tears excels at creating riveting stories – no matter the medium.
The World of Posthumous
For those who may not yet be familiar with the story, Posthumous is a post-mortal company offering consumers a digitized, utopian afterlife. With a variety of postmortem environments from which to choose, Posthumous employees use the Interactive Afterlife Memory (IAM) system to learn about their customers and match them with an appropriate eternal setting.
In Recovery: Cold Case, audience members will enter an experimental unit of the Posthumous Company. Taking place between the previous two productions (Recovery and Posthumous), participants will play the role of new employees training for their tasks in this previously unexplored piece of the corporation.
Though Recovery: Cold Case occurs within the Posthumous world, it is not necessary to have prior knowledge of the story or experience with the production. The plot stands alone and new characters are introduced so that all audience members have an equal opportunity to enjoy the show! However, if you do want a bit more background on Posthumous’ operations – visit the company webpage!
Cold Case: How It Works
If you’ve never experienced a Zoom show, you might be curious about the actual processes. The afternoon of my show date, I received a short email welcoming new Posthumous employees. The message included a reminder of Cold Case‘s start time as well as unique link with which to access the performance. A few minutes before 8pm, I signed into Zoom and was soon let into the meeting area!
Before officially starting the production, the Phoenix Tears crew gave a short tutorial on the basic, necessary functions of the Zoom software. While you certainly don’t need to be an expert on the program, there are some basic tasks (like muting and unmuting yourself, turning your camera on and off, and changing your screen view) that all audience members will need to complete. But don’t worry! If you don’t already understand these functions, the pre-show tutorial will give clear instructions as well as opportunities for practice!
After the tutorial, it’s time for the story to begin! Cold Case is an interactive production with two different tracks and SIX potential endings. Which conclusion a particular audience witnesses is completely dependent on the members’ choices during the show.
Very early in the performance, participants are split into two groups (the aforementioned different tracks). Each group will interact with completely different scenes and characters, tasked with gaining as much information as possible. To do this, audience members need to actively participate in the story – asking questions, interrupting interactions, and paying attention to clues. Not only will guests need to adequately gather information during key scenes, but they’ll need to communicate what they learned with the other group in order to achieve the characters’ ultimate goals and unlock a happy ending.
If you’d like to make sure you follow a specific track or character through the show, consider purchasing a VIP ticket. VIP ticket holders are sent a pre-performance Google form for specific track-related requests. VIP audience members will also receive digital assets from the show and exclusive content from Cold Case unit leader, Beatrice!
What You Need To Know
- Use a laptop or desktop computer, if possible, to access the show. Mobile devices do not currently have access to all of Zoom’s functionality, and it may impact your experience.
- Minimize distractions. This is a virtual show, but that doesn’t make it any less immersive than an in-person performance. Do what’s necessary to ensure a quiet space for you to enjoy the story.
- Participate! While it’s not required, audience participation is an important part of this experience.
- Take notes! As the show progressed, I found myself wishing I had written down some important facts and dates.
Freaky Thoughts: Cold Case
I am always amazed at Phoenix Tears’ ability to take unique mediums and settings and to utilize them in totally immersive and groundbreaking ways! While other Zoom and virtual shows might fall flat, the story of Posthumous and its customers comes alive in this digital environment. The recently (or perhaps not so recently) deceased exist solely in the virtual world, so it makes total sense that we would need to communicate with them through our computers – making the experience that much more captivating and convincing.
As I mentioned, the action and progression of the storyline is dependent on audience interaction, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions! If you’re a little more reserved (like me), I can understand being a bit nervous and hesitant – but don’t let that stop you! These actors are incredibly talented and able to remain in character through a variety of interactions while also keeping the audience on task. As long as you are respectful and genuine, your questions will move the story forward.
If you’re at all curious about the subject matter or if you enjoy immersive theater, I highly recommend you attend a performance of Cold Case. The characters are engaging, the story is fascinating, and the show’s style is unlike anything you’ve experienced before (unless, of course, you’ve seen one of Phoenix Tears’ previous Zoom shows).
Recovery: Cold Case runs Wednesday, December 8 – Sunday, December 12 (showtimes listed below). Performances may sell out, so buy your tickets ASAP on the Phoenix Tears website! To learn more about Phoenix Tears’ upcoming shows, follow them on Twitter and Instagram!