Psychic Utopia

Reviews: Exhibitions / Performances

Roshani saw the play by the Hand2Mouth Theater Company who used the Rajneeshpuram experiment as an inspiration.


Last Sunday, I attended “Psychic Utopia,” a play created by the Hand2Mouth Theater Company in Portland, Oregon. I found it a sensitive and heartfelt exploration of the individual journeys of those who are drawn to community, who experience the intensity of love and work in those environments, and who rebuild their lives after leaving, either by choice or by the collapse of these experiments.

Instead of focusing on the conflict between the commune and the larger society, or on a teacher or leader, instead of describing events, this play gets inside the hearts of people seeking more, seeking transformation. The individual characters are based on in-depth research and interviews conducted by the cast members, and they have really done their homework.

The location is Oregon, and some scenes, like the (to me) hilarious “mock-Dynamic,” are loosely related to Rajneeshpuram, but the play is more broadly based, with a wider message. The cast interacts gently with the audience throughout the performance, to the effect that the audience begins to recognize that they have a lot in common with the seekers depicted in the play.

For me, this was an evening of recognition, heart connection, and even concluded with an invitation to the audience to join in a brief meditation.

Hand2Mouth Theater is considering taking this performance on the road. Anyone willing to assist in finding a venue can contact Jonathon Walters, jonathan @ –

RoshaniRoshani is a regular contributor

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Dates: November 16-December 2 @ 7:30 pm; special matinee performance on December 3 @ 2 pm & 5:30 pm (no 7:30 pm show)

Venue: New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont, Portland OR 97214. (Entrance is the South side door of the WYSE Building)


Sunday 12/3 at 2pm Former residents of Rajneeshpuram and Emmissaries of Divine Light

Sunday 12/3 at 5:30 Marion Goldman, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at PSU who teaches a course on cults and social movements and Former residents of Rajneeshpuram

Director: Jonathan Walters
Performers/Creators: Sascha Blocker, Jean-Luc Boucherot, Jenni Green-Miller, Liz Hayden, Erin Leddy, Heather-Rose Pearson, and Judson Williams
Dramaturgs: Jessie Drake & Hannah Nutter
Coll. Writer: Andrea Stolowitz


Willamette Week: “…a mind-expanding experience in its own right. The play flows dreamily from one moment to the next, powered by eerie, ambient music…there is something beautiful about the play’s generous and inclusive spirit.”

Portland Mercury: “The play is a fictive composite drawn from real-life accounts, depicted with deep nuance, subtle humor, and zero judgment by a skilled ensemble of actors that contains no weak links. Throughout, there is a permeating sense of existential anxiety, of dual longings for community and meaning within secular culture. The material is relatable and vast, but it’s made accessible through light audience interaction, as a sense of trust builds between the viewers and the actors.”

Street Roots: “Hand2Mouth Theatre’s new production isn’t so much an argument for or against communes as a meditation on the lives of those who sought something different and decided to look for, or build, the world they wanted.”

Oregon Arts Watch: “Hand2Mouth’s aesthetic, which straddles theater and performance, is perfectly balanced by director Jonathan Walters for Psychic Utopia. There’s a lot of direct interaction with the audience at first, but as the show progresses, characters appear… The actors bring a restrained tenderness to their performances, not overly sentimental, but aware of these characters’ fragile natures… Psychic Utopia is not about a specific person, or a specific commune, but rather the human search for utopia. Not just a physical place, but a mental state we’re all seeking.”

Broadway World: “I loved the play, I loved the performance, and I loved the warm, connected-to-everyone feeling I’ve had ever since. This is the kind of immersive, visceral experience I go to the theatre for, and Hand2Mouth is uniquely talented at providing it.”

Dennis Sparks Blog: “The cast, composer and director have created a very authentic atmosphere for this event and it’s impressive how it’s conducted. I recommend this “Happening.”

Portland Monthly quotes Jonathan Walters: “We went and found the last generation of people who moved out to the Northwest to get free, and very extremely so… Today, we [in Portland] are on the map as the place to do that. It’s like, ‘I’m gonna give up my car, get out of LA, and get on my bike!’ Today’s version doesn’t involve as much sacrifice, but it’s an unbroken line. It’s happening now.”

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