After a hit one-day run during 2018’s Hollywood Fringe Festival (that I went to and enjoyed tremendously), the company behind Escape from Godot is bringing their unique escape room/immersive production hybrid back to Los Angeles during the month of March. We reached out to creators “Mister and Mischief” to get more details on both their production and the inspiration/method behind transforming an existential play into an unusual and intriguing experience.
Mister and Mischief is comprised of Jeff and Andy Crocker, who describe themselves as “married creatives with complimentary talents and strengths.” They have been working in theater, improv, film, television, and themed entertainment for a combined 15 years, bringing some of their collaborators from those varying experiences along with them to this new endeavor. “What sets us apart,” they say, “is a prioritization of the silly and the playful. A reverence for irreverence. We like to say, ‘Less Wes Craven, more Wes Anderson!’”
While this is the first production the duo has produced under the “Mister and Mischief” brand, they’ve been producing interactive/immersive entertainment for years. Andy, for instance, has done productions such as The Untitled Kip Williams Project, which was a fake table read of a fake sitcom starring a fake pop star, and Playdate, an improvisational benefit show cast with new parents whose babies were strapped to them. Jeff has built a history in themed entertainment with both fabrication and projection mapping projects.
They take much of their inspiration from theming and interactivity and, as they say, “the warm, cozy center of that Venn diagram.” After consuming a great deal of live entertainment around the Los Angeles area, they began exploring escape rooms. That was when they visualized the end result of what would become Escape from Godot. In November of 2017, a friend of theirs – Mike Sablone – sent Jeff a text talking about a 13-hour escape room on a train through Finland based on the Agatha Christie story, Murder on the Orient Express. Jeff responded by asking, “Does this mean we can get funding for our Escape from Waiting for Godot escape room?”
It was meant to be a joke, but when Andy heard the story, she immediately said they had to do that show, especially as the idea came just in time for the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival.
So, what exactly is this experience? Mister and Mischief describe it as exactly what it is – a strange, interesting hybrid of an experience that happens to be centered on a production of a play. “Escape from Godot is both a show and a game,” they told me. “A live puzzle mixed with classic theater where audiences get a chance to play with a play.” And yet that description doesn’t actually explain very much – and that’s intentional. This particular production’s excitement comes in part, after all, from not really knowing what you are getting into before you start.
But they do have a few things they want audiences to know before they enter the performance space. First, audiences don’t need to know anything about the original play – or even that such a play exists. They also believe “the show is fun and exciting to play with strangers. Just like when you see a play, you don’t know everyone in the audience.” And finally, while there are escape room elements, you aren’t playing to get your name on a leader board. While I happen to know the show very well and think it may be a deeper, more amusing experience with that knowledge, they are absolutely correct in all of these points. Anyone can see this experience and enjoy it.
Before this new production at The Yard Theater, Escape from Godot has literally only been performed for two days, the first at the 2018 Hollywood Fringe. So bringing a longer run to a theater allowed for some new and fresh ideas. “Producing Escape from Godot for the Fringe Festival was a blast,” they said. “We had sold out before we even finished writing the script so it was terrifying, but the most fun kind of terrifying. The kind of terror that inspires you to stay up all night at the kitchen table after your kid has gone to bed and giggle about puzzles.”
They also brought the show to Indiecade 2018 for one day only. “Indiecade was great because we got to play the show with people who weren’t necessarily theater people. And the fact that they had a great time gave us a lot of confidence and motivation to share the piece with as many different folks as we could.”
So, did those two days generate any changes in the upcoming production? While they acknowledge that the show is 90% the same as the previous productions, there have been some alterations. “The Yard Theater offered us a good deal,” they say, “with a like-minded crew and a wonderful theater that feels right for our show.” They also made some changes to the production itself by focusing on creating a deep level of audience intrigue. “We have been able to identify elements that excite the audience,” they say, “and tweak parts of the show to highlight those.” Finally, they’ve added new actors to the production so that they can run the show for a month with a large and talented cast.
Mister and Mischief are deeply inspired by the idea of creating shows that they want to see. “When we get an idea that we keep coming back to, then we know we have to make it something we can share with others!” With influences such as Geoff Sabelle, The Rude Mechs, and Shockheaded Peter, they want to build experiences that are a meld of form and function, of setup and payoff. “Andy likes to joke that she only likes to see theater that makes her think thoughts and feel feelings,” Jeff says. “We hope for all of our experiences to do that, but with the added bonus of having a heightened sense of presence and fun. That you just experience something that you can’t quite explain. That it was awesome, but you just had to be there.”
As for what’s to come, they turn a little cagey. “We’re working on a couple things, but if all goes well, we’ll have a new show for the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year, which continues to be an excellent proving ground for immersive and interactive theater.” And, in the meantime, if you manage to Escape from Godot, they happily point out that there is a “super delicious” pizza place across the street from The Yard Theater, a great bar around the corner, and even “a very conveniently located Ukrainian Cultural Center, for all your late-night Ukrainian culture needs.”
That’s exactly the sort of absurdity that permeates both this immersive production and the play that inspires it. So make sure you don’t wait to see this production, whose remount was, paradoxically, worth the wait.