Out of Line Theatre’s The Sandwich: Transforming Consciousness Bite By Bite is a neo-psychedelic work inspired by the discovery of LSD
Imagine taking a bite of a sandwich and having everything change.
From the wonderfully warped minds of Out of Line Theatre co-artistic directors Mia van Leeuwen and Ian Mozdzen comes The Sandwich: Transforming Consciousness Bite By Bite, a neo-psychedelic performance work inspired by Albert Hoffman’s serendipitous discovery of LSD. Billed as “part Alice in Wonderland, part Requiem For a Dream, part Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the piece, as van Leeuwen explains, “explores altered states as mind-opening experiences in which we may find some truth.”
The Alice-on-acid concept was planted in van Leeuwen’s mind three years ago. “I was talking to someone about the discovery of LSD, and he told me a bit of a wrong story,” she explains. “He was like, ‘Hey, did you know there was this scientist and some LSD fell onto his sandwich and he ate it?’ That concept blew my mind. As I researched it, I learned he got it sort of right and sort of wrong.”
Here’s the real story: in 1943, Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, absorbed a small amount of an unknown substance through his fingertips while attempting to re-synthesize ergot, a fungus that grows on diseased rye (“hence the sandwich reference,” van Leeuwen says). Hoffman’s resulting hallucinatory experience went down in the books as the first-recorded LSD trip.
“What I was fascinated by was what happened after its discovery,” van Leeuwen says.
Indeed, LSD didn’t just alter minds — it altered an era. In the western world, the ’60s and early ’70s were an exciting, revolutionary time both politically (see: second-wave feminism, the civil-rights movement, the free-speech movement, the anti-war movement, the gay-liberation movement) and culturally (see: the rejection of mainstream values and the American dream; sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll). LSD, of course, played a not-so-minor role in opening minds to brave new ideas. (See also: Roger Sterling’s memorable LSD trip on a recent episode of Mad Men.)
Still, “this isn’t a Woodstock piece,” van Leeuwen cautions, adding that no actual drugs will be taken. “It’s based in current time. I’m looking at it from a neo-psychedelic perspective. One of the many things I’m pulling from it is the idea of opening doors and opening minds. I think about 2012 and how conservative things have become. Have we forgotten that era? Where did it go? There’s a lot of discussion and criticism, certainly, and it’s easy to romanticize a certain time. But it gets so complicated because we’re still using drugs but depression is the epidemic.”
With contributions from local luminaries such as Julia Ryckman (This Hisses, Slattern), choreographer/contemporary dancer Natasha Torres-Garner, actor/photographer Delf Gravert and video artist Richard Altman, The Sandwich is an experiment that draws from theatre and performance art, as well as live singing, dance and video.
What it’s not is a play.
“There’s a narrative but, much like an LSD trip, it follows a dream logic — or Alice in Wonderland logic.”
Mozdzen, then, is our Alice. “You’re introduced to this character who is inundated by TV,” van Leeuwen says. “He’s depressed. He calls out to the cosmos for help and the sandwich appears.”
Van Leeuwen hopes audience members are willing to follow Mozdzen on his trip.
“Politically and intellectually, it’s so important to stay open,” she says. “It’s like that Einstein quote: ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ We’ve gotten so caught up in text and intellectual ideas. Where has the imagination gone? We’re so passive. We go home and we watch TV and we let things happen to us instead of being active participants in our lives. I worry about that a lot.”
It’s a good thing, then, a little game of telephone led van Leeuwen down the rabbit hole.
“It doesn’t matter that he got it wrong — what an interesting premise to work with,” she marvels. “Someone eats a sandwich and everything changes.”
THE SANDWICH: TRANSFORMING CONSCIOUSNESS BITE BY BITE
Out of Line Theatre
May 9 – 12,
Atomic Centre (167 Logan Ave.)
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