The Mystic Midway is a community, a performance troupe, a roving carnival, and a strategy for connecting people in a whimsical, playful and creative way. It's made up of professional actors, dancers, clowns, mystics, social activists, musicians, costume designers, graphic artists and more.
The main current that runs through the project, says creator and director Scott Levkoff, is “passion for creative community, play, service to others, and whimsy.” A new crowdfunding campaign is raising money for the Mystic Midway’s Burningman project, titled “Carnival of Mirrors.” The project includes a carnival booth, a medicine show, a cosplay guide to creating your own Mystic Midway character, a pop-up carnival wagon, and the “backbone of the whole project,” the Mystic Midway Storycards.
Shareable connected with Levkoff to find out more about the Mystic Midway, how it connects people to their creative selves and each other, and how people can use the Storycards to tap into their own unique gifts.
Shareable: How do you describe the Mystic Midway?
Scott Levkoff: The Mystic Midway Project has been evolving over many years as a crucible of experimentation with thousands of parties and events exploring what's fun and what works to quickly shift people's perspective on their lives, even if just for a moment. The term Mystic Midway refers to the events we host and the growing community we are nourishing, as well as the products we are developing such as the Storycards.
The Midway has been presented in the form of events and social gatherings featuring thematic artwork and performances by artists from many diverse communities. Artists may include singers, instrumentalists, speakers, actors, etc.
The underlying theme of the art, performances and dialogue inside a Mystic Midway event surrounds self-reflection in service to the broader question of how we as individuals contribute to the kind of society we would like to evolve towards.
The Midway proposes that, if the world is built of stories, how will you contribute to them?
It’s both an aspirational personal, and social, journey at the basis of the Mystic Midway, one that encourages folks to dive deeper into the heart of their stories.
What’s the vision for the Storycards? How can people use them and what comes out of using them?
The cards are similar to tarot cards but easier and quicker to grasp. Each card represents a character or a concept defined in the realm of the Mystic Midway. Midway characters represent a side of ourselves and archetypes within society. Concepts include things like the Mystic Fire, which is the unique gift inherent in each of us at our full potential. Another is Persona, which represents the ‘authentic mask’ we wear on the outside as a wrapping for our internal self.
All of these ideas are important to acknowledge as part of any personal growth journey. Drawing a Storycard is an opportunity to ponder one’s relationship to the archetype or concept represented on the card to guide them in their journey. Storycards provide players with a common language for exploring the deep questions that inform a meaningful life, permission to work together in overcoming challenges and the inspiration for using one’s unique gifts towards lifting the quality of your life as well as others.
Mystic Midway Storycards provide players with a common language.
Is the Mystic Midway a set group of people or is it a world that anyone can join?
Anyone can play within the Midway. It's imagined as a transmedia story world, like Narnia or Oz, where there are known characters but plenty of room for anybody to tell their own story with their own made-up persona and their own perspective. Moreover, people can take on the mantle of those key characters to channel their archetype, like an actor playing Hamlet or Titania.
Each interactive performance presentation thus far of the Mystic Midway has involved a core cast, consisting in-part of professional performers and part spirited players from the community. The events are interactive social affairs that appeal to creative-types. People who aren’t involved with the project per se tend to show up in costume and join right into the dialogue and the play.
You refer to the Mystic Midway as social theater. Will you tell me more about that?
Social theater creates the conditions and permissions to pose social groups with the questions that hopefully inspire shift towards unlocked potential. Social theater supports the role of each individual as a unique social artist needed in the bigger play.
Social theater explores topics such as: What social dynamics we would like to see at play? What roles do we play in creating stories with others? What unique gifts do we have to share with our communities?
A few of the Mystic Midway characters
I understand people can go on a collaborative, group storytelling adventure into The Mystic Midway. What might one of these stories be? Can you share an example?
In the Mystic Midway Home Game, as we call it, small groups of players can sit together in a living room with a deck of Mystic Midway Storycards and go on a collaborative storytelling adventure. Players start in Midway Alley where they encounter the Hobo King, who asks that they bring stories back from their adventure into the Midway by working together to find their way into the Midway itself. Players encounters characters along the way who ask for personal stories, reflections or secrets in exchange for tips on how to move forward on their journey.
The players work together to meet challenges along the way and support one another in overcoming hurdles and challenges they may face. For example, if during one of the sessions the players come across a topic that identifies fear, a character called Mr.Nobody is brought out to eat the fears. Someone is encouraged to roleplay this character as he eats the fears and enables the players to move deeper into the Midway.
How does the collaborative aspect of the Storycards enhance the experience?
The collaborative style of play presented by the Mystic Midway Storycard Home Game helps players build a sense of trust and deep connection. By learning to lean on one another and their collective genius, they access the group’s wisdom towards solving hurdles, overcoming challenges, and navigating the situations presented by the cards.
When players have a direct experience of the value of operating as part of a greater whole, they are better able to model this social behavior in their own lives. This is one of the main goals of the Mystic Midway Storycards: modeling the concept of emergent social dynamics through playful, shared experiences.
Anything you’d like to add?
I am grateful to all my supporters, creative innovators everywhere and Mystic Midway community who continue to share their enthusiasm, creativity and devotion to the Mystic Midway’s vision: manifesting a social renaissance of creative expression, collaborative spirit and engaged accountability in our lifetime.
Top photo: Scott Levkoff as a Grimaldi clown