Orlando Sentinel

Shred your worries at Orlando’s ‘Joybox’

- By Matthew J. Palm Find me on Twitter @ matt_on_arts, facebook. com/matthew.j.palm or email me at mpalm@ orlandosen­tinel.com. Want more theater and arts news and reviews? Go to orlandosen­tinel.com/arts. For more fun things, follow @fun.things.orlando on I

Cole NeSmith knows it’s not easy to forget your troubles and “c’mon, get happy” as the old song goes. But he’s determined to help people try.

“Joybox” opened Friday in downtown Orlando, the latest whimsical offering from Creative City Project, the organizati­on behind the “Dazzling Nights” holiday-light extravagan­za and “Down the Rabbit Hole,” last winter’s outdoor theatrical experience in Leu Gardens.

NeSmith leads Creative City Project, which will present its annual Immerse festival in October, and like previous offerings, “Joybox” is all about entertainm­ent — with something deeper under the frivolity.

“I love creating moments that people have fun in,” said NeSmith. “But with moments that make people feel something. This is a fusion of that.”

In a large, vacant area of the Fulcrum building on Orange Avenue, multiple installati­ons allow visitors to play and reflect.

Right off the bat, “Joybox” wants attendees to leave their worries at the door. In an area called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” patrons write their concerns on brightly colored paper and then feed them through shredders installed in the walls. The resulting confetti is there for the taking — signage suggests a paper fight with a friend or just throwing it in the air.

And, yes, the ubiquitous song will be played.

“We know it’s not as easy as the song suggests,” the signage reads. “Let this be a symbolic act of releasing, a representa­tion of what is possible.”

Symbolism is evident throughout the exhibition hall: Oversize flowers invite people to take photos as they “stop and smell the roses.” In the “On Cloud 9” section, a skyscape of cottony clouds also beckons visitors to relax.

Personal reflection is encouraged through devices high-tech and low.

In the “Count Your Blessings” area, patrons type something for which they are grateful into a computer and then watch their thoughts whirl by on LED screens, joining those of others. True to the title, a giant counter displays the number of blessings received.

At another station, visitors can write letters to their future selves.

“It’s all about who do you want to be a year from now,” said NeSmith, explaining the letters will be collected in self-addressed envelopes. “In the next year, we’ll mail them back.”

The simplicity of the actions in “Joybox” — shredding paper, writing a note, posing for a photo — is deliberate.

“So much of joy has to do with returning us to simple things in this very complex society we’re in,” NeSmith said.

He thinks the barrage of messages from politician­s, celebritie­s and the media adds to the general anxiety level.

“So many narratives in the world are built around making people worry, it’s all about stoking worry,” he said. “What about narratives about how we should live with each other?”

He hopes “Joybox” and a forthcomin­g installati­on called “X-Factory” will build excitement for the return of Immerse. The creativity-celebratin­g arts festival will return Oct. 15-17 throughout downtown after missing 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Joybox” had been talked about since 2019 but was also a pandemic victim — until now.

NeSmith thinks the COVID-19 weariness felt by so many makes it the perfect time to launch a creative escape mixed with a dash of contemplat­ion.

“We could do entertainm­ent forever,” he said. “But what can we do to bring meaning to people?”


What: Art and technology installati­ons to lift the spirit

Where: Fulcrum, 150 N. Orange Ave. in Orlando When: Through Oct. 24 Cost: $12 for Joybox only; other ticket packages for the Immerse festival include Joybox access

Info: creativeci­typroject. com

 ?? COURTESY PHOTO CREATIVE CITY PROJECT/ ?? A young volunteer tests the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” shredder at Creative City Project’s “Joybox,” finding happiness in the colored confetti.
COURTESY PHOTO CREATIVE CITY PROJECT/ A young volunteer tests the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” shredder at Creative City Project’s “Joybox,” finding happiness in the colored confetti.

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