The Experiences is arguably the most immersive production company on the market today. Redefining the alternate reality experience genre, both The Tension Experience and The Lust Experience led audiences on a multi-month journey that culminated in an event that pushed the boundaries of immersive entertainment. When the team behind these exploits announced they will be working a new project, entitled Theatre Macabre, fans wanted to know more. Haunting spoke with the creative team behind Theatre Macabre to illuminate this new venture.
Theatre Macabre provides a layered experience, based on the theme of Le Theatre du Grand-Guignol (Theater of the Great Puppet). “It’s a show within a show: live stage theater with live music and dark and humorous vignettes, but it’s also how and why those performers are there and the mysteries you can uncover about the theater itself.” Similar to previous work, the team behind this presentation promises that it will have “its own levels and layers to explore, except this time, they will be self-contained within the walls of the show itself.”
“It should feel like you are in another place that is as much a dream as it is, at times, a nightmare.”
Moving from the success of previous work, Darren Lynn Bousman is spearheading the directing, Gordon Bijelonic is producing, and Clint Sears is bringing his prowess for the written word. But with Theatre Macabre, we are given a glimpse into the roles of others from their creative team. “Morgan Rooms is back as a valuable clutch player, supporting in all manner of creative ways: music, puzzles, graphics, and videos; Stephanie Hyden keeps our heads on straight with the many hats she wears behind the scenes; and Will Weyer is back as our web designer —but this year, he’s taken over our main graphic work as well and is completely knocking it out of the park.”
Finally, “new to the writing side, but not new to us, we have brought in fan and critic Bryan Bishop and our long-time lead actress and all-around star, Sabrina Kern, to help us execute and fill out the narrative as well.”
While Le Theatre du Grand-Guignol often reflected graphic, amoral horror entertainment, Theatre Macabre is not limited by its inspiration. “The sky is the limit,” the team says. “We are always working through what’s on our mind at the time. The creative process can be great therapy to work through your issues—and thankfully for us, we have a lot to mine from.”
Beyond their life issues, the team is inspired by numerous media. “When Darren [Lynn Bousman] was describing his initial vision, the Interview with a Vampire Grand-Guignol scene was discussed heavily.” The team also cited that live short-form skits and vaudeville were inspirations that will be applied as well.
When asked if any themes from their previous work will shine through, they answered, “We often gravitate towards the surprising humanity that can be found in the darkest places. The most effective thing you can do when presenting the extreme is to make it relatable and entertaining.” If their previous work is any indication, this team excels at highlighting the duality of hope and despair, light and dark, sensory overload and deprivation.
Theatre Macabre was born as a backdrop to another idea—and the story blossomed from there. “Everyone immediately loved that it felt fresh and different. We could juxtapose so many wonderful things—high and lowbrow society, the visceral versus the pristine, and high art versus vulgar novelty—to create interesting dynamics and conflicts with and around the audience.”
Despite the success of their previous immersive work, the team explains that this experience was not simply a comfortable extension: “If it feels safe or routine, then we aren’t interested or motivated like we should be.” Instead of relying on a tested structure, they sought to innovate and expand. “From the beginning, Clint [Sears] thought tackling this would be a lot less work, but Darren [Lynn Bousman] had a much larger scope in mind… essentially doubling everyone’s work.”
Despite this extra work, they are eager to create something new, novel, and unknown. “We are excited about layering the show as a multi-fractured reality, using all the immersive theater tricks we’ve learned—with a live-stage performance happening in the foreground or background, depending on your journey.” They tease that your path will influence your perception of the truth. “[Your path] will inform different beliefs regarding what is actually happening based on where you are and who you happen to be talking to.” So, define your own path, engage with the actors, and immerse yourself in their world.
Both Lust and Tension followed similar styles that allowed some exploration mixed with branching pathways, and Theatre Macabre promises to give audiences even more freedom. “The audience’s individual journey will definitely feel free and open this time around as we explore and perfect new ways for that to happen.”
Their previous work has also been personal and intimate to those who’ve entered the doors of The Experiences. While there is no prior narrative or interactivity to be had with this event, it will still be a personal journey for all involved. “While the players of the theatre may not know exactly who you are before you set foot in the door, there is a pretty good chance that they will by the time you leave—and there’s an even greater chance you’ll know yourself much better than when you entered.”
Finally, when asked if this experience will be a full contact experience, if guests should expect any physical intensity, or any emotional intensity, we received a one-word answer: “Yes.”
The Experiences is no stranger to fantastic, world-defining sets and extraordinary production value, and the team guarantees that this new experience will “transport the audiences to a specific time and place” with their set design. “We will also be exploring all manner of period music to see what fits best.” However, that’s where they stop—“to say anything more may give too much away.”
They are also known for narratives that adapt and change with subsequent return visits. This too, they couldn’t answer without giving away a lot of what they planned to do. But they did tease, “While the main show may not change with repeat viewings, there is a very good chance your understanding of it will.”
Theatre Macabre runs this Halloween season, from October 5th to November 4th. While it is unclear if it will only live during this haunt season, or if the Grand-Guignol world will continue to grow and expand, we were teased that “Theatre Macabre, in theory, sounds like something we would love to continue to explore.”
Ultimately, this is an experience that guests will feel and grow inside. “We want them to feel everything and hopefully learn a little bit more about who they are in ways that may surprise them.”
Buy a ticket HERE and continue to support this creative team as they push outside of their comfort zone and expand the walls of immersive theatre.