If you spent the ’80s or ’90s equally immersed in Choose Your Own Adventure novels and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, you should definitely spend 45 minutes on your phone with The Telelibrary Travel Agency during this year’s SoLow Fest, now an all-virtual event amidst the pandemic.
Theater, trivia, experiment
Travel Agency is the latest incarnation of the Telelibrary, which is part theater, part trivia, and all experiment. It’s the brainchild of Yannick Trapman-O’Brien, a New York and Philadelphia-based Renaissance man with a storied background in theater. The Telelibrary is interactive and immersive, and Travel Agency was developed specifically for the SoLow Fest.
One scheduled phone call lasts approximately 45 minutes, granting listeners three credits to “spend” on trips to different parts of the planet. Each trip costs approximately half a credit and is chosen by the listener. Each country and region is presented with its coordinates and an encyclopedic fact about the location.
Sing for your supper
Three credits are not enough to sustain the entire trip, so listeners will most definitely have to sing for their supper. Purchasing a credit requires a story about your hometown, your parents’ hometown, the best meal you’ve ever had, and tourist traps to avoid. And yes, if you don’t come prepared you will be stammering for interesting facts, especially if, like this intrepid reviewer, you live in a particularly small town.
As the adventure continues, the experience wends its way not only across space, but time and memory. If you struggle with indecision, there are three planned itineraries you can choose from.
The Telelibrary Travel Agency pulls from sources as varied as the Atlas Obscura and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun to contextualize the different locales, and your personal travel agent chooses whether you’ll learn historic, geographic, or literary trivia about your destination.
It was a bit of a surprise to discover how much interaction the Telelibrary requires. There’s no option to key in answers instead of speaking, and there’s also no text-based component, so Deaf and nonverbal audience members won’t be able to experience the immersion.
What theater should be
Overall, the whole experience is what theater should be: fun, engaging, and ever so slightly weird. It provides an opportunity for the secret geek inside of us (perhaps not so secret, in some cases) to reconnect with our utter delight over the geography and history games we played as children while simultaneously engaging in way that’s safe and socially distanced.
Telelibrary Travel Agency is a pay-as-you-wish event. Twenty percent of your contribution will go toward various causes that provide relief and mutual aid throughout the community. The first week of SoLow Fest bookings benefit Morris Home, the only residential recovery program in the US that specifically serves the transgender community.
The SoLow Fest continues through June 28, 2020. Find the full line-up of virtual shows here.
What, When, Where
The Telelibrary Travel Agency. By Yannick Trapman-O’Brien. Part of the SoLow Fest, through June 28, 2020. Yannickto.com/telelibrarytravel.