SALT LAKE CITY — Many children of the 1980s and 1990s remember the Choose Your Own Adventure novels. Free Pool Collective’s Cloudy Library is a virtual production at this year’s Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival that similarly allows viewers to choose how the story unfolds.
At the beginning of Cloudy Library, the audience member reads a small vignette and then chooses a screen name, an avatar, and the first decision that determines the story’s progression. Technically, the story is available for viewing at any time, but it is recommended to view it at 7 PM Mountain Daylight Time during the course of the Festival so that audience members can chat together about your experiences. It is a nice feature for those so inclined.
The entirely unique way that these artists chose to present their compilation of talents was compelling and inventive. Instead of just doing a traditional revue or showcase, the audience is given the opportunity to go on a choose your own adventure journey, where their own thoughts and personality guide what they watch, how, and when. Though I did find the technology quite cumbersome at first, I appreciated after I got the hang of it having the capability to move the camera angle and focus point so that things could be more pleasing to my eye, not just the eye of the director or videographer.
Several different stories were told in brief segments, from a joyful relaxation in a bath, to a frolic in balloons representing clouds, to super hero dreams. It was an excellent exercise in the abstract meeting the artistic in isolation.
In a traditional year, I am not sure I would have enjoyed Cloudy Library by the seven artists represented: Rachel Luebbert, Cece Otto, Ali Lorenz, Bethany Rose Boutwell, Brandt Garber, Faryn Kelly, and Kara Brody. However, 2021 is not a traditional year. While there is much to praise, as is often the case with a lot of Fringe shows, there is still a lot of abstract with the Cloudy Library. That leaves much of the show’s meaning open to interpretation, and, perhaps, up to the viewer’s choice.