Anybody got enough frequent flyer miles to lend me to get from Orlando to San Francisco? Recently, a new immersive theater show opened up there called The Speakeasy and I need to get my butt on a plane ASAP. Much like its predecessors like Sleep No More and Then She Fell in New York City, Speakeasy lets audience members roam around in an open environment where they are free to interact and watch scenes at their own pace.
At a startup cost of over $200,000, Boxcar Theater has turned back the clock to San Francisco’s prohibition era. Patrons enter a storefront set up to look like a clock shop where upon giving the secret password (and buying a ticket), they are let into what seems to be a time capsule. Inside is a fully-functioning bar, casino and cabaret filled with a cast of 35 characters from chorus girls to bartenders to World War I veterans. Not only is the music, decor and costumes all designed to bring patrons back to the prohibition days of the 1920’s, guests are encouraged to dress in period attire to complete the immersive experience.
Speakeasy works on many different levels because it lends itself to curiosity. During the prohibition, if you knew the secret password, you gained access to a place others had only heard about. Once inside, there was a unique cast of characters who all had their own underworld society. Everyone is connected in this world and they all have their own secrets and stories to tell. Patrons are encouraged to eavesdrop on conversations the characters are having and, on occasion, be pulled into the action and a part of the experience. No two guests coming out of Speakeasy should have the same experience due to multiple scenes happening simultaneously all over the facility.
Just like life, you don’t get to see everything in one viewing. Imagine all the gossip that goes on in a typical modern office. You may overhear a conversation at the cubicle next to you, in the break room and over by the fax machine. However, it’s up to you to piece together the stories of your office co-workers and just like real life, it’s your job to piece together the story of the Speakeasy with whatever information you happen to come across by being in the right place at the right time.
In the world of The Speakeasy, you may be able to eavesdrop into the dressing room of the chorus girls in the cabaret thanks to a two-way mirror or even in a hallway. There is no backstage, every inch of the 3,600-square foot facility is used for guests to explore at their leisure. There are certain “magical moments” in the show where time shifts either as flashback or flash-forward or maybe the audience will see a scene play out that is a fantasy in the characters head. At one point in the show, the cabaret is filled with dancers and audience members are encouraged to dance the Charleston right alongside the performers.
Think of it like an immersive role-playing video game where you get to collect pieces of a puzzle that may never be fully solved. Except in this game, you get to actually drink and gamble. As a reward, if you so choose, you can pay an extra $10 to continue your journey into Club 1923 where you can continue to drink, dance and gamble the night away till 1 a.m. Seriously, can someone get me on a plane to San Francisco ASAP so I can experience this for myself? F0r more information visit The Speakeasy website by clicking here.