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Portaleza’ Reimagines What An Online Experience Can Be

Latest Digital WOW from La Jolla Playhouse inspires wonder, delight

Photo credit: David Reynoso/La Jolla Playhouse

"Portaleza" invites participants to engage in an innovative online experience that redefines what that interaction can be.

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La Jolla Playhouse’s WOW, or Without Walls, Festival was forced online by COVID-19. But as a site-specific event, the restrictions of quarantine have simply become a creative challenge. The latest Digital WOW work to debut is "Portaleza" and displays an innovative approach to creating a virtual experience.

Aired: September 9, 2020 | Transcript

La Jolla Playhouse’s WOW, or Without Walls, festival was forced online by COVID-19. But as a site-specific event the restrictions of quarantine have simply become a creative challenge. The latest Digital WOW work to debut is "Portaleza" and displays an innovative approach to creating a virtual experience.

In a time of instant gratification, "Portaleza" asks you to slow down to enjoy a delicious sense of anticipation.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

"So you as an audience member purchased a ticket and then you wait for something to arrive in the mail," explained multimedia artist David Reynoso. "When this parcel arrives in the mail, you open it and it launches you into an experience."

An experience that elicits wonder as it addresses the need for connection during a time of social distancing.

"So the word itself is sort of an imagined word between portal and portaleza, which means strength or fortress," Reynoso said. "The idea behind it really came from how it is that we all really crave this idea of connection during this time of social distancing of during coronavirus and so it felt that it was important to celebrate how it is that we as humans seek to connect, seek to leave messages for each other or sometimes send messages out into the ether, much like a message in a bottle. And is there still a benefit to sending something out that perhaps may never reach the person that it's destined for? And does it still bring us hope to imagine that that message might get to them? And I'd say yes."

Your "Portaleza" experience begins with the arrival of your packet, which contains a letter, Portalezainstructions on how to build a Hypnocular Device that will be a portal mat, a small sealed envelope, and the materials make your Hypnocular Device to place on your cell phone screen.

Reynoso added, "This idea of truly kind of losing the periphery of a screen, of being able to then think of what it is you are seeing on screen and have that kind of expand and explode beyond your sense of peripheral vision."

Reynoso explodes expectations by reimagining what an online experience can actually entail. I was so enthralled with the inventiveness of his work that I’m not sure how much to explain and what to leave a mystery. It’s like you have been given an ancient artifact that has never been seen or used before.

"I think it gives you permission for it to feel completely outside your realm of experience," he said. "Yes, I'm seeing a screen that I see every day, but suddenly it's being presented to me in a way that I had never experienced before. And that imagination of that invitation to enter that dimension, that portal through the screen in a new way is exciting."

Photo credit: David Reynoso/La Jolla Playhouse

"Portaleza" has you put together a Hypnocular Device that turns your cell phone into a mind-blowing kaleidoscope.

It is like a viewfinder that turns your flat cell phone screen into a mind-blowing kaleidoscope.

"I remember as a kid making my own kaleidoscope and then you put objects that are very boring," Reynoso stated. "You know, you might put sort of like a bead and these things that feel very kind of not very special on their own. Suddenly within a kaleidoscope as they're moving around, they're being multiplied, makes them immensely more magical."

Then combine those trippy, magical visuals with a seductive soundscape.

"So it is a myriad of sounds that I have found and cut and spliced. And I'd say it’s a kind of a sonic collage," he explained. "I think sound is so powerful in what it's able to do to us emotionally. So pairing that with the visuals and the experience of then having to getting to touch that I wanted this to be a very multi-sensory experience for as much as I was able to provide that. And I think certainly within a sort of physical space of creating something. I like the idea of going through a labyrinth in order to kind of get lost."

Lost in a realm that feels both retro and futuristic, low- and high-tech, familiar yet strange.

"I remember assembling things out of cereal boxes and imagining that when you make this all of a sudden ta-da, you now have a sort of like magical binoculars. I thought that there was something about that fun in that low-tech magic that invited the audience members to then think about also playing along within this," Reynoso said.

Portaleza, the latest of La Jolla Playhouse’s Digital WOW productions, engages you with its humble yet inspired artistry and its rapturous innovation.

"I think we love imagination. I think this is a time in which we need imagination in order to keep us moving forward," the artist said. "And I wanted this to feel like an invitation for you to use that wonderful tool that you have in your brain of imagining something beyond your reach."

Portaleza asks you to narrow your field of vision in order to expand your horizons.

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Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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