Over the last week, I have gotten multiple messages asking me the same question: What was your reaction when you found out that Penumbra (with official show name When Shadows Fall) was actually The Republic 2.0? I’d like to apologize in advance for not having a camera on at the time the light bulb went off above my head, but my response was something like this:
If you’re new to Theme Park University, I cover all kinds of themed entertainment from theme parks to escape rooms and immersive theater. For those unfamiliar, immersive theater is a form of entertainment where there are no seats and patrons can explore an environment filled with intriguing sets, actors and storylines in an extremely intimate setting. That is, with the exception of The Republic last year in Orlando.
This show took the concept a step further by letting the audience drive the story. For example, imagine being in a mad scientist’s laboratory and they ask your advice, “Which one of these colored liquids should I drink, the red or the blue one?” The outcome of that decision could kill the gentleman standing in front of you in a lab coat or give him magical powers. Either way, your involvement in the show (or lack thereof) influences the direction the characters take and how the entire cast must now nimbly bounce around to every little thing.
If you think it sounds cool? You’re right. That idea is incredibly intriguing from anyone into theater, gaming or combination of the two. If you also think it sounds complicated, you’re also correct. The execution on a project like this is critical and at least in my experience, it fell apart. My thoughts on the show are chronicled here and yes, I was brutally honest. I also was a part of the first paid performance for the Orlando Fringe Fest, which was considered their test and adjust period. Unfortunately, based on several people who saw The Republic after I did, told me it didn’t improve drastically over the course of the run.
Which brings us to When Shadows Fall, the new show from Pseudonym Productions which has also been affectionately referred to as The Republic 2.0 (by them, not me). The themes of the show sound nearly identical to what I experienced last year. A corrupt government on the brink of anarchy, lower level workers looking to shake things up and for some reason… Medusa? Strangely enough, all of these story elements are present in 2.0 and they promise it will be bigger and better this year.
From the press release: “When Shadows Fall is Pseudonym’s first fully-realized Living Story experience, a large leap forward from their 2015 proof-of-concept show, The Republic. This all-new production immerses audience members as “Players” in an alternate society teeming with intrigue and suspense. Supported by engaging visuals and riveting interactive performances, the experience transports Players into a fully responsive, multi-sensory world.”
“As an independent production, When Shadows Fall is a high-quality experience created without access to the multi-million dollar budgets of big corporations and theme parks. In the world of themed entertainment, this first person experience is the equivalent of an independent film – edgy and unique, but still polished, relatable, and exhilarating.”
Am I skeptical? Of course I am. It’s also worth mentioning that there were people who went through The Republic and seemed to like it. On the same token, there are folks who enjoy Cici’s Pizza even though I particularly think it’s an abomination in the category of pizza and calling that stuff “food” is a stretch. To each their own, but I will say this: the branding of When Shadows Fall has been done extremely well.
If anything, I can tell they spent some time creating a marketing campaign months before this show even starts and while it’s intentionally vague and confusing (much like my experience at The Republic last year), I can at least appreciate a solid promotional blitz when I see it.
Meanwhile, if you’re auditioning for 2.0 this weekend, remember: snacks and role playing don’t pay the bills. Also, if you could pick up some windshield wipers from the Napa Auto Parts store this is being held at, I would greatly appreciate it as I am in need.
Now if you’re interested, I can tell you about what happened after I posted my infamous article last year. Interesting stories of people from the production reaching out to me anonymously, a few rumors were spread and I even got some hate mail. Let me know in the comments or on social media if you want to hear those stories and I’ll see what I can do. Meanwhile, enjoy this teaser video.
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Images Copyright: Theme Park University, Pseudonym Productions