Instructions for a Habitat Inventory, a presentation from Playable Artworks in Minneapolis, is described as an “interactive meditation on place that you play at home,” an excellent way to put it. Not a play or theatrical piece exactly, it’s more an effort to make people explore the places they live or spend time in, to look beyond the familiarity and repetitiveness that come from such places and to ask real questions about how we actually interact with our individual worlds.
Some work is involved: You are required to download an app from Playable Artworks and to take a variety of notes and questions from your experience. The tour gives you the option to define your own habitat, whether it’s your residence or neighborhood or workplace or wherever you spend a lot of time, and then it asks you to identify different parts of that habitat — as a “safe place,” a “damaged place,” a “place of lack,” a “place of change,” and so forth.
Once your places have been identified, the tour prompts you to find words which describe each of them, to tell how they make you feel, to find the things that are lacking or safe, and so on, and to consider how others would see “your” places from their own point of view.
It’s an interesting exercise, and Playable Artworks is right to call it meditation: It’s like a guided tour of your own world, taken from your own perspective, which gets you to ask the relevant questions that we seldom bother to ask ourselves.
That is, of course, why this is a worthwhile project/experience. It’s not so much about identifying or labeling the different areas of your home or wherever. It’s more about how we need to take the time not just to identify them, but to be aware and do something about them, asking us to consider what’s lacking or to repair the damage or promote some needed change. It’s a little subversive to explore such things when you’re expecting to see a play — and frankly people aren’t used to that sort of self-examination (or “habitat examination,” as it were).
At the end, the producers provide an opportunity for feedback and shared responses, as well as a way to view comments from others who have gone on this particular journey. I came away feeling that it was worth the time to ask questions that hadn’t occurred to me and glad that I took the time to ask and answer them.
The Cincinnati Fringe Festival takes place June 4-19. For more information, show descriptions, a schedule and tickets, visit cincyfringe.com.