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Midnight Explosion

"Outside the Box" brings Burning Man-style magic to St. Louis


One of the most overused words in our language has to be "magic." Describing an experience as "magical" is practically a guarantee that it's some kind of hackneyed, sappy ordeal. One is left grasping for the thesaurus when something truly magical happens.

Well, let the grasping begin, because it sounds as if something magical this way comes. Scott Pondrom, inspired by his experiences at the annual Burning Man free-for-all festival in the Nevada desert and at artists' communities in larger cities, has organized an art happening called "Outside the Box."

"People have been calling this [show] the Lollapalooza of underground art," says Pondrom.

Dedicated to showcasing "performance, installation and technology" art, "Outside" features a mainstage with five "art-performance" bands; a flatbed trailer outfitted with couches for a hayride-style tour of the Lemp Brewery complex; fire performers and large-scale fire sculptures, including a "lake of fire" with a vantage point at the center; a geodesic dome filled with live fireflies; a troupe of wandering improv performers armed with small stages that they throw onto the ground, mount and do their shtick on; giant puppets; a wooden church constructed inside the space that houses a bar and a "reverend" known for unusual homilies; a children's pillow-and-blanket "fort" adapted as a lounge for adults with couches and mood lighting; and an elaborate wooden maze that opens to reveal the majority of the art installations. Don't forget the surprise "midnight spectacle," involving "thousands of tiny explosions," and other minievents with Harleys, "screaming monkeys" and a schizophrenia-simulation machine. More than 50 artists, many from outside St. Louis, are involved.

"We're trying to completely transform the space," says Pondrom. "It will not be like walking around a museum -- you'll be inside of the art."

"Outside" sounds like the sort of magical temporary zone of interactive creativity that, like Burning Man, offers a glimpse of the wild, funky community that some of us wish we could visit more often.

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