A NIGHT AT THE SPEAKEASY BRINGS TOGETHER LIVE THEATER AND ESCAPE ROOMS
Escape rooms have easily become the hot new thing in 2015 with game playing and puzzle solving geeks! Recently it seems that there are more and more venues popping up that offer patrons the chance to try and solve their way out of complex, sometimes creepy but always engaging rooms and chambers littered with clues, keys, ciphers and the always daunting timer ticking down to zero.
In the past month a group escape room enthusiasts took the idea to the next level by introducing live actors into the mix, combining the team building excitement of solving puzzle rooms with the high production value of a thematic dinner theater experience. This idea was the genesis of Canadian Caper and their debut event held on September 19th, 2015 in Toronto, “A Night At The Speakeasy”
Dressed up in the look and feel of a prohibition era juice joint, the event brought together musicians, actors, and players for a night of fancy outfits and sleuthing through all kinds of different brain teasers and mysteries. It was a huge success, drawing in over 200 attendees over three one-hour performances.
I spoke to Errol Elumir, the Toronto based geek/musician behind the puzzle design and story flow for the event, about his experiences putting the whole night together.
What made you want to design your own Escape Room?
I’ve created a number of different puzzle challenges and games throughout the years, but what I truly wanted was a fully immersive experience with actors. After I finished Toronto Puzzle Hunt #2, Will Hutcheson of Escape Games Toronto (EGT) set up a meeting with myself, Manda Whitney, and Mike Yuan of Escape Games Review (EGR). He proposed a collaboration between our three escape room review blogs and we agreed. I’ve read about interactive theatre and escape rooms being mixed together in other cities but not in Toronto, so we wanted bring that here!
How did you settle on the 20s Speakeasy theme?
We originally wanted to have a prison theme, but Will found the venue, The Gates. He thought it would make an excellent setting for a Speakeasy and we ran with it. We put together a website and a company and Canadian Caper was born!
What were some of the challenges incorporating actors into your events?
The great thing about being in the community of actors is knowing a lot of talented people. They were all amazing and I trusted they would be able to handle what we wanted them to do! We didn’t give them scripts to work from. We only gave them bios and the information they needed to pass to players. Otherwise, they spent the entire night in their roles, ad libbing situations and questions as they came. The only challenge I had was finding actors who were available for a whole day! Fortunately, it all worked out.
Did everything at the event go according to plan?
For the most part, it did. The actors and the volunteers were amazing and everyone got into their roles and were excited for the night. The players, I think, could tell how much fun we were having and it was a feedback loop of excitement. It was great! The only thing I would change would be the flow of some of the end puzzles. There was a bit of a bottleneck which I want to remove.
Did anything surprise you about that night?
The night went better than expected, and a lot of that was due to the players themselves. A number of people dressed up and role played! It was amazing to see them get into a character and interact with the actors. One group brought weapons! Another group had 1920s cigarettes which emitted smoke. We were transported back in time, and the evening went by in a flash. The crew chatted till the early morning hours talking about their experiences with the players and how much fun they had.
Are you planning to host this event again in the future?
If we could host the event where we could provide the same level of quality and experience, I would definitely do it again.
Are you planning to host similar events like this in the future?
Oh, I hope so. I already have some pretty crazy ideas which would be insanely fun to implement! However, I’ve said too much already. 😉
Errol Elumir is a puzzle designer who reviews Escape Rooms on the blog Escape Room Addict. He is a geek musician who writes a daily webcomic about being a geek with a family. He will happily chat with you on his twitter account, but that way lies madness. For more information about Canadian Caper and “Night at the Speakeasy”, check out their website CanadianCaper.com.
All photos courtesy of Steve Backman Photography.