A Mind-Bending Virtual Journey

Online theatrical experience, created by mentalist Scott Silven and co-commissioned by Virginia Arts Festival, is a good sign of the times

by Leona Baker | Nov 12, 2020

Never underestimate the power of imagination—even in the face of a lingering pandemic. In a new virtual production co-commissioned by the Virginia Arts Festival, renowned mentalist and performance artist Scott Silven gets inside the memories, minds and hearts of audience members logging on from around the world and does what has often felt impossible in 2020: brings us closer together.

An intimate experience for no more than 30 online audience members at a time, The Journey begins with sweeping drone footage of breathtaking countryside in Silven’s native Scotland, following his solitary figure along rocky paths to the sound of crashing waves and a magestic musical score.

Silven then invites the audience into the bedroom of what he describes as his childhood home. But is it? Theatrical magic and reality soon become indistinguishable in Silven’s world of metaphysical mystery, where blank walls and a minimalist set serve as a canvas for a master storyteller with a memory like a lockbox.

Over the next hour, Silven interacts in real time with individual audience members whose live-streamed images pop up like apparitions in the room with him before sweeping back to their places on the wall, disappearing and reappearing as they are woven into his tale of a nearly forgotten fable about a boy who wanders into the woods and comes back to a world transformed beyond his understanding.

Participants are asked to chime in with choices that appear to drive the direction of Silven’s mind-bending revelations. He invites them to share significant dates from their lives—birthdays or memorable years. He even enlists them in a show-and-tell featuring objects they have chosen beforehand—a beloved charm carved from a shell, a framed photograph of a family member.

Silven’s remarkable ability to memorize these details on the spot is outshined only by the uncanny craft he demonstrates in weaving them into a play in which the audience is as much the star as he is. Numbers, shapes and objects freakishly specific to the personal details shared by audience members only seconds before are suddenly revealed as part of Silven’s set or incorporated into his tale.

Even in the inevitable “How did he do that?” moments that ensue, one is forced to abandon adult skepticism for childlike wonderment—at least long enough to complete The Journey with him and envision a universe in which we are all tied together by the shared experiences that make us human.

Silven has a longstanding relationship with the Virginia Arts Festival, having previously presented two sold-out productions of his At The Illusionist’s Table in 2018 and 2019 at Leone’s Italian Restaurant on Granby Street in Norfolk.

The Journey online virtual performance will stream Dec. 8-13, 2020.

NEW DATES ADDED: Jan. 5-10, 2021

Tickets are available now at VAFest.org or by calling the Virginia Arts Festival Box Office at 757-282-2822. Be sure to test your device’s audio and video settings well ahead of time and follow the provided prompts to have a fully immersive experience.

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