Red House. Photo: Jeromy Barber

If you weren’t aware, a couple of weeks ago Houston was the setting for an immersive theatre experience called Red House over in the museum district. The production featured eight performances, all of which sold out almost immediately and featured music from Black Kite as well as LIMB with accompaniments by Chris Bakos, Cathy Power, and Tony Barilla. The list of performers that included child actors and members of the Houston Ballet, making the experience one that was truly memorable and mind blowing. I attended two performances, the first and the last, and what I took away was a study on where music can go, and how those who interact with it treat the overall encounter.

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Tony Barilla of Red House. Photo: Jeromy Barber

For starters, I won’t give away any secrets to the production. This is more of a study in performance than it is a show review to tell you what you missed. The production began the moment you entered the property, with Tony Barilla on accordion playing just steps away from the entry. Attendees mingled and had beverages, unaware that the scene of the rebellious teen was part of the experience, or that the child on the swing was as well. The scene was set in a world created by the team at Dinolion to live out the world of Black Kite’s Soft Animus Heart in an experience that was far from tame. The attendees got to experience the music and the storyline twice per performance set, and with each second the discovery of pain, loneliness, and heartbreak of the album’s lyrics were played out in front of all to see.

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Red House. Photo: Jeromy Barber

As someone who attended two performances, I can tell you that I saw others in attendance break the rules of not speaking unless spoken to, while many were left to wonder who was a part of it all and who wasn’t. While Vicki Tippit of Black Kite made her way throughout the house, singing with accompaniment by Chris Bakos and Cathy Power in each room, the players lived out the life of a teen who is tormented by a deeply religious upbringing and the secrets that come with such an intrusive belief structure. The dissonance of the mother, the anger and anguish of the teen, and the whimsical worry of the children were all acted to perfection with few words. The ballet dancers performed a sometimes playful routine with attendees who dared to break them from their performances, while their moves like that of acrobats still stick with me today.

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Red House. Photo: Jeromy Barber

The rooms, inhabited by characters, spirits, and attendees changed within minutes of leaving them. Copious amounts of furniture were moved while locked doors were opened to reveal something in sync with the storyline, while the music of Black Kite was offered up in a completely new and inventive way. Some attendees were given heart tags that made lights flicker when placed together with varying set pieces throughout the house, making the experience truly different and even more interactive. Some attendees were taken into rooms by characters only to find themselves having a secret revealed that only they would hear. I found myself torn between navigating through the world that was created and following the lives of the characters within Red House.

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Vicki Tippit of Black Kite. Photo: Jeromy Barber

Throughout it all, the lyrics of the album were what hit the hardest. The entire production was like lifting the veil from a record that was filled with as lush of a story as the music itself. The lyrics of “Wanting” hit hard when characters sang in unison “Everybody needs a seance and a tragedy,” while other tracks resonated with more intensity based on the words having a backstory to rely on. In “Terror,” the lyrics to the entire song now hit so hard that they almost made me cry. Hearing “There was never a future for me that wasn’t yours, I couldn’t find a comfort in that,” now means something completely different to me. It doesn’t end there, but I wonder who else that attended feels the same.

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Red House. Photo: Jeromy Barber

In asking those who I know went to one of the sold out performances, I found that while everyone had a mesmerizing experience, many walked away with something different. Several people told me that they were brought to tears, a couple told me that they felt they understood the album now, and many told me that they were forever changed by what they experienced. We could all agree that all of those involved did a masterful job of creating a universe for us to inhabit while leaving us with an impression that we could never forget.

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Chris Bakos of Red House. Photo: Jeromy Barber

Will we get to see Red House again? I cannot say, but neither can those who were involved in its production. As for now, we’re all left with our experiences, with a fond appreciation and respect for those involved in hopes that we’ll get one more chance to relive the world that was created again.