Brian Sanders’ DRAGONBUTTER soars to top of Philly’s must-see theaters list
From Da Vinci to the Wright Brothers, humans have been intrigued by theft for centuries. Although we could fly by plane, parasail, and even parachute, would it be amazing if we had the superpower of flight?
“The story in Dragon butter, (which is a heavily story driven experiment) is about some sort of mad scientist trying to figure out a way to fly by combining a machine and an animal I guess or a human or we don’t know exactly what. Inside of that, he’s doing a lot of experimentation. And one of the things he’s experimenting with to find out different flight techniques, kind of like Leonardo analyzing the wings and trying to build a flying machine, he combines dragonflies and butterflies and ends up with a dragon butter. “
But what is Dragon butter?
I had the opportunity to virtually interview performance artist, choreographer and Dragon butter inventor Brian Sanders.
“It’s both an immersive game, escape room and performance, as well as a history and theater experience.” Sanders explains.
Dragon butter is a multisensory experience is an ambitious project located in an 8,000 square foot warehouse located at 200 Spring Garden Street. Dragon butter is distributed in several thematic rooms with a superb arrangement of light and sound. Each room challenges players with mini-puzzles and dramatic physical performances, leading to the final, a final fight against the “Boss”. Reminiscent of old-school video games, the story reveals itself in layers and begins when you and 11 other “gamers” enter the abandoned laboratory building, filled with haunting lobby music played eerily over the speakers. Next, players enter a decontamination chamber, wondering what will happen next.
Sanders describes how the concept for the coin stems from his experience during the COVID pandemic. “The content and design of the play is the result of the past year and a half.” He explained that like many others, he spent a lot of time at home. “After six months without being able to take it, I went back to the studio and started working. I don’t know what I was working on,” he admitted.
Sanders said he’s trying to figure out the logistics of the flight for some upcoming projects on the horizon. He got swallowed up in the idea of it all. “I ended up becoming this mad little scientist who was literally trying to figure out how to fly. The idea of the mad scientist locked up alone in a laboratory and somehow creating his own amalgamations of his fantasy … that was real life. of it. “
Dragon butter is a plethora of ideas which, like a cacophony, although seemingly chaotic, combine to create a magical and unique experience. “I feel like there is something to be harnessed in the creative side of your brain: which to me is non-linear and very open to suggestion and will go in any direction at any time. what a whim and idea. “
Like Sanders’ self-proclaimed mastermind, the layout of the warehouse as well as the plot itself is seemingly erratic but comes into its own as the show progresses. Although 8,000 square feet seems like a lot of space, the warehouse is divided into a plethora of rooms creating a sort of maze in which members of the public move around simulating different levels and locations in a video game.
The interactive nature of the room creates a feeling of almost escaping the experience. When the audience hits “boss level” it feels like you’re racing against the clock and challenging yourself to escape. Along the way, the audience collects inventory and “points,” but they also collect metaphorical clues that piece together the overall puzzle revealing Dr. Livingston’s underhanded deeds.
Dragon butter isn’t just a prime example of Sanders’ creativity, but it’s a love letter to vintage sci-fi movies. “I had fun underlining everything with several references to sci-fi movies from the 80s.” Sanders said. The soundscape is definitely a nod to Strange things and, like the modern Netflix show, the spirit of Dragon butter lives in the past, and even literally lives in an abandoned warehouse that has been mostly abandoned since the 1980s.
Dragon butter is an excellent example of in situ theater. The room was created to be performed specifically at this location and everything related to the warehouse where this piece is performed lends itself to enhancing the overall experience of the show.
Sanders successfully simulates flight so beautifully in Dragon butter, using creative choreography and stunning structures to utilize vertical space in a way I’ve never seen before in immersive art. There is exclusivity and privacy to the performance. The show revolves around direct interactions not only with the performers, but also with other members of the audience and the environment.
I particularly like the design and concept of the “Chaos Chamber” where, sitting with their toes in the sand, the audience listens to a guided meditation while watching an almost strangely haunting acrobatic performance.
“Although I can’t go to the museum, one of my favorite things to do is walk around the museum with my headphones on, put music on visual art, and create soundtracks for things. , and I couldn’t do it, so I was at home experimenting with the art of video games. So the types of art that we can experience and that we can be inspired by, I kind of believe, inform what the next and a half to two years of art will be like. is going to be different. Like a replica of it all. “
Dragon butter completely demolishes the theatrical “fourth wall”. It feels like you’re living in a sci-fi video game with the right amount of thrill, terrifying, and entertaining.
“I wanted to give the audience the experience of a role-playing game (or RPG), an avatar within a game. They can feel all the pleasure that the performer has as an avatar. vicarious.” Sanders said. “I looked for a lot of game design while putting it all together.”
Sanders says, “There’s a sort of multitrack part of the experience. You can play at any level of depth. You can play going very slowly into details or you can go straight for the boss-kill. And there’s a boss fight in. Don’t worry.
The boss fight Sanders refers to is the climax of the piece where the audience faces the titular Dragonbutter himself. Your weapon of choice for your survival is, of course, determined by how many points you accumulate by collecting inventory, choosing your case wisely at the start, solving puzzles, disabling lizard-type experiences, and being involved in the overall experience. Your weapon for defeating Dragon Butter is just one of the rewards that audience members unlock by getting higher scores.
Dragon butter improves as you work and interacting with tasks and performers completely increases the experience. I also suggest that you listen to the suggestions of the performers and immediately put on the poncho and gloves provided at the top of the show.
Dragon butter also timely, being well suited to members of the public coming out of their 40s. Sanders explains that he took COVID regulations into account when creating the part. “How do I create an experience for what I thought were a lot of people who could move around at the same time safely? How can I create an experience for a smaller audience? He says he wanted “a more tight-knit group of people who live something together.”
“I like to say most of the time, expect the unexpected. But what does that mean?” He goes on to explain that the public who sees Dragon butter should “be open-minded. Expect it to be fun or funny, exciting, scary, tense at times, very creative, fun in a group too. While it’s a small group. It’s fun with friends and family. “
Dragon butter is an explosion of sensory experience and is almost heartbreakingly beautiful in its aesthetics, amazing soundscape, and ingenuity. As much fun as Sanders describes in creating the play, I had just as much fun experiencing it. Dragon butter is completely ingenious and turns a neglected warehouse into the epitome of Sanders’ imagination.
“It’s the perfect piece to step outside of yourself,” Sanders says, telling me it’s “Extremely relevant but in a wonderfully fantastic way… It helps us to step outside of ourselves and take an hour of our day to find a sense of creativity, whimsy, a little hope and a great time. “
Overall, Dragon butter is astonishing visceral, visual and aural, combining a multitude of entertainment ranging from aerial arts and dance to theater and game design into a unique and ultimately effective theatrical experience, which I can guarantee is unlike anything else from what you have seen before.
“It gives an experience that gives people a feeling of excitement with a touch of hope and elation. It takes away a good, positive feeling.”
Dragon butter is recommended for children 13 years of age and older. Tickets sell out quickly and performances have a limited capacity of 12 people per show, so grab your tickets quickly. The show now runs through July 26 and will resume as part of Philly Fringe, September 2 through October 3.
For more information on the show, please visit https://www.briansandersjunk.com/dragonbutter