Japanese Arts Network's "Zotto" to teach you about Denver's racist history

Halloween may have ended, but this fall, the Japanese Arts Network is inviting yokai (Japanese ghosts) to some of Denver’s most famous haunts.

“Zotto,” as their new show is called, is billed as a supernatural, immersive adventure that recounts Denver’s sordid history of redlining, segregation, resettlement and Ku Klux Klan terror through a twisting narrative.

“Spirits and unexpected encounters help the audience to navigate this spooky story throughout Downtown Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood and Capitol Hill,” organizers wrote in a press statement. “Participants may choose to travel from chapter to chapter by vehicle if they are in the Denver area or as a digital experience, available virtually.”

The mix of in-person sites and virtual reality recalls “No Place to Go,” the experimental, artist-driven haunted house that spread out across Lakewood and Wheat Ridge last month. Like “No Place to Go,” this project also has an implicit social-justice mission.

“Zotto” hopes to educate audiences through historical context and re-created experiences of cultural communities, as researched by the Stories of Solidarity team, organizers said. That project has been gathering stories from Colorado’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities, including “neighborhood redlining and segregation in Five Points, Japanese American resettlement in Colorado following WWII, and the terror caused by the KKK at the Shorter AME church” (that last location being the current home of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, one of the country’s most acclaimed Black dance ensembles).

Those sites will figure into the show, which is backed by partners such as Western Sound Alliance, filmmaker Bruce Tetsuya, and other musicians, dancers and visual artists (including Crush Walls street artist Casey Kawaguchi). A short, cryptic video on the event’s website promises “interactive, sensory and tactile materials” and multimedia art to “uncover the mystery.”

All of the show’s custom audio tracks, as well as its seven stops, will have their own website where organizers invite participants (via a dedicated QR/URL link) to “dive deeper into the stories of the people and places visited while acknowledging current-day parallels.”

In accordance with updated state health mandates, only two locations will have the option of leaving the car — including the first stop at Pacific Mercantile and the final stop at Cheesman Park. Each new location will be disclosed by the audio tracks, videos, or envelopes held within a package that will be mailed to each audience member upon purchasing the experience, organizers said.

Pre-order tickets are available now on Indiegogo, and live tickets will be available on Bandcamp starting Nov. 6 for $25.

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