Exploring the relationship with our digital lives in Journey to the Zone

Peter Sarty's auditory sci-fi musical plays as part of the online offerings at this year's Mayworks Festival.

Journey to the Zone takes place as the material world has ended and the digital realm begins. It is one of several online events as part of this year's Mayworks Festival. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.
Journey to the Zone takes place as the material world has ended and the digital realm begins. It is one of several online events as part of this year's Mayworks Festival. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

While current COVID-19 restrictions in Nova Scotia have temporarily impacted the live in-person shows at this year’s Mayworks Festival, the scheduled online events, including the online auditory sci-fi musical Journey to the Zone, will continue as planned.

Set in 3000, Journey to the Zone is the story of an unlikely hero who, alongside a social media android, travels deep into cyberspace to unlock the secrets of the Perfect Pixel, the energy source of the Digital Realm.

“It’s a science fiction story set in a time where everything is pixelated and digitally created, where the material world has ended, and the digital realm has begun,” explains creator and director Peter Sarty.

"It looks at our modern relationship to technology and as we exist more and more online, how can we make sure that it's positive as opposed to negative?" - Peter Sarty (above), creator and director of Journey to the Zone.
“It looks at our modern relationship to technology and as we exist more and more online, how can we make sure that it’s positive as opposed to negative?” – Peter Sarty (photo above), creator and director of Journey to the Zone.

As society continues to exist inside that digital realm, Journey to the Zone explores how we navigate those spaces in ways that promote love, connection and empathy rather than hate and division.

“It looks at our modern relationship to technology and as we exist more and more online, how can we make sure that it’s positive as opposed to negative?,” says Sarty.

An idea Sarty has been playing with since 2017 after writing a song on a friend’s synthesizer, the music sounded to him like the opening number to an epic sci-fi story.

“I started with this idea of a world entirely created by pixels, and how people would exist in this world powered solely by that,” he says.

It would take four years, inspiration from Expect Theatre’s PlayME Podcast and a pandemic for Journey to the Zone to solidify.

“It struck me in the early days of quarantine that it would exist and could exist strongly as an audio piece,” he says. “I don’t really love calling it a radio drama or radio musical because it’s not on the radio, but it is kind of that scene. This version, at least, will be a fully auditory production that people can listen to.”

And while some may not immediately see the connection between Journey to the Zone and the intersection of labour and the arts at the centre of Mayworks, Sarty says it does fit nicely inside the festival’s expanded incorporation of social justice and, more specifically, as an exploration of the capitalist structure we exist in.

“It is important that as we exist in it, that we are questioning the structures that demand a certain status quo, silence certain voices, and more importantly and dangerously, promote certain narratives that are false or harmful,” he says.

Journey to the Zone questions how individual voices and how much power we do and should have in terms of relegating how we want to exist in this world. How we want these structures to support us rather than hinder us, and uplift people rather than keep them down?”

Hoping to inspire and uplift audiences, Sarty does recommend wearing headphones for the full effect.

“But it is also best enjoyed with groups of friends that you can do so safely or to Zoom with pals across the province and country,” he says. “I hope that brings some joy and excitement in these strange times that we live in.”

Journey to the Zone plays as part of the 2021 Mayworks Festival. Visit mayworkskjipuktukhfx.ca for more information.