This past summer, I spent my weekend evenings working as an actor in Utah’s Evermore Park. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an immersive adventure fantasy park. The park is designed as an old Victorian English town, which if you know me, sounds like heaven.
In Evermore, portals open up to different realms, and creatures and characters come through the portals from their respective magical lands. Guests to the park come through a portal of their own at the front gates.
Evermore is packed with things to do. You can see animal shows, fire dancers, aerialists, fortune tellers, musicians, gamblers, or magicians. You can throw axes, shoot arrows, beat up on your friends with boffer swords in a battle arena, or play archery tag. You can earn gold from the Evermore residents, help them with quests, or try to unravel a large park-wide plot a mystery at a time. You can play trinket trading games or you can see if you have what it takes to join one of the many guilds in town, such as the Pirates, the Knights, or the Blackheart Hunters.
The whole point is that you can carve your own path, choose your own adventure.
I played a couple of characters this summer: a magician (where I got to dust off my old prestidigitation skills and try my mettle on guests) and a monster hunter blessed, or cursed, with the ability to shoot fire from my hands. Let me say, seeing the look on guests’ faces when, after speaking to me back and forth all night, I found the occasion to let loose a fireball was incredibly rewarding.
As far as the season-wide plot goes, Evermore went through all sorts of problems when a portal opened up in their mausoleum, and beings from a hostile land started trying to come through. Each week this problem intensified. But though I played my part moving that big plot forward, I actually spent much of my time developing an amazing rom-com plot with the tavern keeper, Annie played by the incredibly talented Isabelle Headlee, filled with all sorts of classic story moments one might only find in a 90s sitcom.
Throughout my whole experience, I was absolutely overwhelmed with the enthusiasm and passion for the project I saw in everyone I worked with. The production team was kind, professional, and strategic. My fellow actors were supportive, positive, and dedicated. And the park guests brought the magic with them every time the gate opened.
I accepted the acting position believing I knew, to some extent, what I was getting into. After all, I’d attended the park in the past, and I’d seen my brother perform there for nearly a year in various roles.
But I was mistaken. I had no idea what waited for me.
It had been a long time since I’d worked with a creative team of passionate individuals that truly seem to care about one another, who work together united to make a cohesive and beautiful creative product. I’ve had some traumatic experiences in the past with other creative teams, experiences I thought I’d healed from. But I realize now that in an attempt at self-defense, I’d closed off a portion of myself.
Bit by bit, as we staged an alternate reality for park guests, I started to open up again.
It happened in small moments. Whether it was playing a piece of the drama with other performers, seeing kids play with dragons and meet mermaids, watching park guests make new, lasting friendships, or developing heartfelt connections with strangers through a layer of consented-to, heart-felt make-believe, it happened.
I believe in the power of stories. I believe in the power of fantasy, but it’s difficult to express to others why fantasy is important for society.
Perhaps it’s an act of empathy, and by exploring that which cannot exist, we actually learn so much about ourselves. And more importantly still, by suspending our own thoughts and judgments and stubborn ideologies, even for just an evening, we can learn so much more about others.