Our First Private Commission - it reminded us that we are DARN GOOD.
In August STL IA was commissioned to create an interactive experience for Rural Mo Insurance, a company that sells insurance to farmers. I was contacted by one of the owners who found us by searching “improve, st. Louis” in Google. Good to know. She pitched the idea to me and I was intrigued enough to keep the conversation going even while still based in New York. You can’t let a good opportunity good, no matter where you are in the world and what you had on your schedule. I decided to fly back into St. Louis to do the commission and to take care of some other business.
The retreat host, Lori, wanted to celebrate the staff’s hard work during a difficult year of drought. If crops aren’t doing well, then insurance companies are dealing most directly with that, and these employees were probably working more hours than they had expected. We thought that a great way to celebrate their extra work this year would be by crafting a performance that built off of inside information about the staff. I remember drinking a Schlafly in the kitchen at Halliday House (the kitchen, you must understand, is like our studio space) and going through an Excel spreadsheet with Olivia, trying to highlight notable quirks and memorize facts about strangers. We giggled a lot at the time, yet looking back I find something so poetic about the experience of a stranger sending a stranger personal information about little lives. And then us celebrating these quirks and hard work by driving two hours to make these people go doe-eyed and to get them to play with each other.
For our interactive performance, three strange characters showed up lost. First: After a tiff with her driver, Elizabeth, a posh British dame stumbled onto the retreat, famished from her walk. She sat down and helped herself to their food. A few minutes later, the Professor entered into another room and explained that he was searching the grounds for the last remains of an old meteor, predicted to be on this site. He also helped himself to several beverages. A kindergarten teacher from Minnesota got separated from her field trip and found her way onto the grounds as well. Finally, two detectives were spotted photographing objects in the yard, one on a red telephone without a dial. They entered the scene due to a mysterious phone call they had just received. The two led the group around the grounds to discover clues, connect the dots, and complete some challenges the culprit(s) had laid out along the way.
The clues we planted pertained to that inside information (ie. Someone really like Diet Pepsi without Ice from Sonic..We had that hidden along our route, discovered it and tried to figure out what exactly it was. We probed around for someone who could help us..possible someone who was very familiar with Diet Pepsi without ice from Sonic..you get the picture?) After finding a group of clues at a site and determining their connection to various people in the group, a clue would lead us to a task that the culprit had outlined for us to complete before being able to move on to the next set of clues. The group participated in goofy, interactive tasks we’d designed in order to move through our mystery. In the end our team deduced that the culprits were the retreaters themselves, and we fled the scene, worried that we would be next!!!!
The team–composed of Devon Cahill, Emanuel Taranu, Olivia Engel, rookie Raphael Deschamps and myself, Mallory Nezam—per usual, enjoyed the creative process of conceiving of this concept, the characters and of the actual performance itself. Thanks to Rural Mo Insurance and Lori for reaching out, and if anyone has any interest in a disruptive, interactive, funny performance, please contact us. We do a great job of tearing down barriers, getting people to lighten up, and working around a theme in clever ways. If you are interested, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.