Night at the Speakeasy Post Mortem
Well, after four months of planning, practicing and stressing September 19th came and our speakeasy event finally happened! And it didn’t crash and burn! Quite the opposite! It was a rousing success!
Two weeks later, my brain is somewhat recovered from the insanity of it all. It seemed like a good time to finally get some thoughts down on the evening. My previous blog post dealt with the actual creative process of writing for an interactive medium. This post will deal more with how the actual event turned out.
There was a lot to organize the day of: making sure the tables arrived at the venue, getting all of the puzzles printed, organized at cut out, getting contact info for all actors and organizers, running a last minute beta test, getting costumes in order, setting up the venue, getting into costume and make-up, sound checks…so much more!
If it was just me who had to do that, 100 people would have arrived to an evening of a 32 year old woman in a fetal position. As 4:00 rolled around, I couldn’t help but get more anxious. I had actually been relatively calm during the day (well, calm for me). We had practiced. We had prepared. We only needed players now. The big uncertainty on everyone’s mind was what exactly would happen when one hundred people entered that room. We knew that six people could be dealt with. But a hundred?
Thankfully we had a crack team of experts. I cannot stress enough how essential it is to have people around you who know what they’re doing and do it well. Will took care of all of the venue stuff and keeping track of everyone’s progress. Yuri managed all of the ticket sales and check-in procedure. Errol was on top of making sure the puzzles were working well. Mike ran around taking care of last minute stuff. Ruby was just absolutely incredible as the event planner and kept the whole thing running like clockwork.
This gave me the chance to actually focus on my job for the day: acting! And keeping the other actors up to date with any script revisions, of which there were many. I wasn’t too worried about it though. The friends I had tricked into helping us out were all performers I worked with before and trusted deeply. They all showed up on time, knew their roles and had even memorized every single piece of 1920’s slang we had thrown at them. All we needed was our costumes and a little makeup.
Oh yeah, did I mention there was a makeup person? There was a makeup person. Her name is Emma and she was absolutely amazing. Honestly, I did not really know how much difference makeup would make but it transformed us and added so much authenticity to our experience. We only had enough time to makeup three of the female actors but once everyone saw how awesome it looked everyone was wishing for their own 1920’s makeover!
Also helping the authenticity was our venue. Located in a converted bank, it pretty much screamed 1920’s speakeasy with its exposed brick, bar and basement entrance. It was enormous as well with multiple rooms for Errol to wreak havoc with his puzzles. There was the main puzzle area, the bar area which would be where I would spend most of the night and a gambling area complete with a haze machine to enhance the atmosphere.
Anyway! Back to the evening! We peeked out at the players entering the venue and discovered that the majority of them had dressed up for the speakeasy! Some had a few accessories. Others went all out with dresses, fedoras, giant cigars and in one group’s case fake guns. It was thrilling to see people this excited for the event. More importantly, it was a great example of the audience adding to the immersion of the game.
I was playing Lila, the ex-girlfriend of the Don. My place for the night was at the bar with my friend Lyf, who was playing Frank the bartender. Perhaps the most nervous I was for the entire evening was during the first ten minutes of the first session. The bar was completely separate from the large playing area. I had no idea how people were progressing. It was a huge relief to finally see the first players enter the bar. At which point…well…
This is where I can’t properly give a full report of the evening since I was relegated to one area and no clue as to what was going on outside. But I can safely say that I had a blast. Being the slightly drunk ex-girlfriend, I flirted with almost everyone that came my way (unless they weren’t interested of course). What was even more fun was seeing the reaction of the players.
Some players would rush in to get the clues to the puzzles and rush back out again. But the majority would stay and chat and get to know my character. They would try to think of creative ways to get information out of me to get the oh so important clues I held. Of course if they flat out simply asked “Hey, do you know this piece of information?” I would tell them. But that would not stop people from getting into the roleplaying aspect of the game.
That was what made the entire experience for me. I know that I love adventure games and immersion and stories and interaction. To see other people enjoying it as well, many of whom had never done something like this before, made it that much more fun. It reminded me very much of a university play I performed along the same lines…except with puzzles…lots of puzzles…
It helped we had great actors helping us out. Everyone got completely into their roles and even enjoyed it! I always worry when I drag my friends into our crazy projects. Obviously they will do their jobs no matter what. But when they enjoy it, that’s icing on the cake. Everyone went above and beyond to make the evening fun: Babara, Lyf, Mark, Mark, Dale, Josh, Tom, Dan, and Debs all were crazy awesome.
Of course the evening was not perfect. There were some bottle necking issues that occurred towards the end, particularly during the third session when we oversold the timeslot. There was a song played over and over again that took me two weeks to get out of my head.
But overall? The combination of the puzzles, live music, actors, organizers, venue and players made for an unforgettable night. Players’ main comments were that they loved the immersion and roleplaying aspect of the escape room. Seeing as how that was our goal in the first place, things could really not have gone better for us.
Would I do it again? Maybe. There are definitely things I would improve upon and do differently. I know for sure that I want to continue writing for interactive mediums. I’m very grateful to all the help we had and proud of everyone who pulled twice their weight to help pull this off. Thanks to everyone who came out and who helped organize! It made for a very entertaining evening and will hopefully lead to more escapes like it!
Photos provided by Backman Photography