Political polarization is rampant throughout our entire country. We all feel it, even in our tiny liberal microcosm of Cambridge. However, on a recent list of the most polarized cities in the United States published by CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin stood out. This gave me a location to test pilot my frugal, yet hopefully effective piece of immersive theatre. When considering how to attract people of all backgrounds to one single space, I realized the importance of basic human needs, such as food, to attracting people to one place. The Aldi supermarket in Green Bay, Wisconsin appears to be a perfect place to stage an immersive theatre experience that will help heal and bind people together.
The experience itself is not entirely complex, but consists of staged interactions between customers and actors. These actors will approach shoppers in non-confrontational ways, such as reaching for the same product, or “accidentally” bumping shopping carts. The actors will attempt to start a conversation with the customers, and touch upon a topic of polarization, such as political stances, sports teams, and the like. The actors will attempt to disagree on at least one contentious point. These actors report to the cashiers, who then propose that the customer approach the actor they interacted with (who end up present in the same checkout line or nearby) and compliment them or answer a question from an article containing 36 questions specifically designed to make people fall in love. If they answer these earnestly, they are given their items free of charge.
Psychologically and scientifically, this process is sound. Self-selection bias is practically eliminated, cognitive friction is minimized, and people who may not agree with each other in a politically-polarized area are brought together.
When designing the poster to advertise my experience, I purposely used graphic design techniques from other supermarket ads I found, incorporating busyness and an emphasis on communicating through fonts and prices. My color palette was also intentional, using colors found in the Aldi logo, as well as green to represent a pride in Wisconsin. And of course, “Ham it up” is a pun, as supermarkets are wont to do with their sale names. Of course, all items being advertised as free is also a draw to the store. It was made in Illustrator. All in all, the poster is intentional in its gaudiness, as this means that this theatrical spectacle blends in with the environment of other supermarkets, eliminating potential for self-selection bias, and maintaining a general familiar, non-confrontational atmosphere. The storyboard is also simple and logical in its presentation, aptly summarizing the appropriate and important points of the experience. It was created in Illustrator and GIMP.