TrailOff will bring audiences into captivating stories as they walk trails throughout the region, synced to them in real time
TrailOff is a new mobile app premiering in September of 2020 during the fall’s FringeArts Festival that brings its users a cutting edge artistic experience that is equal parts immersive theater, GPS-triggered technological “magic” and connection to nature. This mixed reality performance features 10 original audio dramas, totally free to download through the upcoming app, that unfold on trails across the Circuit Trails network. Created by Swim Pony in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and app developer Toasterlab, stories feature local authors who bring new and diverse perspectives to trails in the Philadelphia region. Each story is written specifically for a trail on the Circuit Network, evoking a conversation between the external landscape and the internal sonic world. Stories are compelling and highly crafted to the selected route of the path, featuring aspects of the landscapes and giving audience the feeling of a live site specific performance, but available 24/7 and responsive to the pace, weather and time of day the in which user undertakes the experience.
Developed over a two and a half year-long process, this new mobile app showcases self- guided geolocative audio performances that embed stories into the natural landscapes of the Philadelphia region. The experience of using TrailOff will feel like both site-specific theater and a contemplative walk, bringing compelling storytelling that shakes up the narratives one typically associates with nature trails. By expanding such representation, and using the existing networks these authors have already cultivated, the creative team hopes to create a deeper sense of belonging for those who may not yet feel invited into these public outdoor spaces. Audiences will be able to access these 10 intimate trail journeys via the free-to-download app, using GPS to link narration, ambient soundscape and music to physical attributes along a mapped route. The work, available for both
th Android and iOS, will be free to download starting September 10 .
The project is headed by Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony founder and a leader in the emerging genre of tech/game-inspired theater. Mackey has overseen the development of the audio and visual design in the app; selected writers and led them through the process of creating stories for this unique emerging genre; and directed actors in the recorded audio performances. Mackey worked alongside a team of collaborating artists including sound designer and composer Mike Kiley, graphic designer Maria Shaplin and app developer Toasterlab. Mackey also worked with writer TS Hawkins to develop a central narrator character (a mythic being called The Ranger) who guides users through the app, voiced by local performer STARFIRE. PEC has headed up the environmental aspects of the project – choosing trails that highlight a diversity of landscapes and partnering each writer with a non-profit trail advocate to assist with research and local knowledge of the site. The writers include: National Book Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado, local Philadelphia alternative historian Denise Valentine, Egyptian-American poet donia salem harhoor, Chamoru writer/activist/teacher Jacob Camacho, Philly Pigeon founder Jacob Winterstein, poet afaq, writer Li Sumpter, self-published urban thriller writer Erin McMillon, playwright/performer Eppchez ! and poet/performer ari.
Stories cover a range of topics and styles from Afrofuturism-inspired mythology mysteries (Li Sumpter’s Chronicles of Asylum) to urban legends surrounding the Jersey Devil (River Devil II: The Return by Carmen Maria Machado), poetic exploration of care-taking and the Arabic diaspora (A Sycamore’s Psalm by donia salem harhoor) to magical realism narratives in which a trans Latinx woman confronts ancestral Aztec gods. Each of the 10 stories is scored with original music and design that features binaural audio, which gives it a spatialized 360 feel and fills the spaces between one scene on the trail and the next. Using the phone’s sensor data (weather, time of day, pace), stories also subtly shift in relation to the user in real time, giving them a magical experience of live unfolding events and offering agency to control the pace and experience of the journey.
Trail locations are easily searched in the app, found throughout the city and its surrounding suburbs. After each walk the app’s interface will shift from its standard map to a behind-the- scenes portal that offers a podcast-style interview with writers and info on points of interest near the trail to give users deeper insight into the spaces they’ve just traversed.
TrailOff will premiere this coming fall along with a host of supplemental programs (talks, livestream walks, social media scavenger hunts) during its September launch month in conjunction with FringeArts. The app will be available to download for a year after its launch. To get more info visit www.swimpony.org and to sign up to be notified when the app is released visit www.trailoff.com