Spring's rebirth may be in the air, but across San Francisco this week, much of the city is pondering death.
That’s the focus of Reimagine End of Life, a weeklong exploration of a subject many regard with sadness and abject dread. The festival, running April 16–22, encompasses 175 unique events that range from a panel on how to ensure your last wishes are honored to a grief-themed comedy showcase — all designed to encourage conversation and diminish the stigmas that surround life’s end.
Serving as one of Reimagine’s centerpieces is Second Chance — a two-hour immersive experience in which groups of ten are given the opportunity to face their own death. Taking place in the multi-story Mission District workspace The Laundry, the show utilizes elements like virtual reality, lighting design, acrobats, and live music as a means of allowing participants to experience death and, as a hopeful result, to live life more fully.
Second Chance producers Scott Shigeoka, Roxanna Shohadaee, and Melinda Lauw each bring different backgrounds to the project while collectively sharing a passion for immersive experiences.
Shigeoka can trace his interest back to a treehouse he and his father built in a mango tree where, as a child, he used to act out elaborate stories. Shohadaee turned down a full ride at Vanderbilt to study astronomy in pursuit of the arts, which included a four-year stint working for Burning Man. Lauw is one of the co-founders of Whisperlodge — an immersive sensory spa that taps into the concept of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), in which pleasure is derived from certain visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli.