Last night, surrounded by curious onlookers, I chanted spells in a tent in the year 2018 and stepped out in 1885 as someone else. There was a garden party: horseshoes, sack races, champagne and canapés, and a lovely young couple celebrating their engagement. And yet, underneath the levity, there was some dark, foreboding sensation. The bride’s father was nervous, sweaty, the maid eyed each guest with suspicion, and a veiled woman with a thick Turkish accent trawled the perimeter hungrily. The bride, Elizabeth, though a bit on edge, seemed to be the bright spot in this celebration, her special night. But I’ve met Elizabeth as she is now—a long-dead vampire temptress far removed from this naive girl. Tonight, in 1885, I’m attending Remember Me: Elizabeth, a Count’s Den origin story from Rachel Foti and Hela Productions, and the human Elizabeth’s special night is about to be her last.
Over the last several months, The Count’s Den in Downtown Los Angeles has been the first of its kind—a long-form immersive experience that continues and evolves as guests return for subsequent visits. Over time, Den members have met Countess Cora (Dana Benedict), the group’s dark and charming leader, Germaine (Matthew Vorce), the wild youth, Ellie (Sarah Uplinger), child-like as she is deadly, Hakan, the snarky gypsy magician (Anes Hasi), and Elizabeth (Stepy Kamei), the alluring deviant. Foti is gradually expanding her vampire lore with a series of origin stories for her original vampires (new additions, such as Elif Savas’ Countess Yizadora, remain a mystery for now.) What started this past July with Remember Me: Germaine, continues now with Elizabeth; Remember Me: Ellie, Hakan and perhaps Cora herself are slated for later this year, each story portraying the tragedy of the character’s death, and the continued tragedy of eternal life.
What sets Elizabeth apart from its predecessor, Germaine, besides the location (a stately home in Thousand Oaks vs a grimy underground punk club,) is the approach audiences take to the immersion. While guests were ghostly observers in the former, Elizabeth’s guests are transported into the narrative, taking on roles as individual party guests and following the action accordingly. It allows for an interesting opportunity for immersive theater fans that have live action role playing experience to feel at home, and brings newcomers to the immersive concept face to face with the excitement of truly being part of the story.
My particular role was that of Margaret, the secret paramour of William, Elizabeth’s fiancé. He and I locked eyes across the party and William, played with gleeful smarm by Alexander Echols, whisked me away for a secret tete-â-tete. Throughout the party, I exchanged wry smiles with Countess Yizadora (Zombie Joe’s mainstay Elif Savas, brimming with intensity,) solemn nods with the dedicated maid (an endearing Sabrina Ranelluchi) and icy, suspicious glances with Elizabeth herself, who’s tragic vulnerability is expertly conveyed by the tremendous Stepy Kamei. I truly felt as if my presence was integral to the plot, aided by a committed cast and effective narrative; this is the kind of immersive theatre that engages without overwhelming, intrigues without confusing, and lends itself to the enjoyment of all levels of participants.
The Count’s Den encourages new membership in order to experience relaxed Members Nights on Thursdays and their ongoing back-end ARG, but there’s a specific set of perks to entice new mortals to the dark corners of the Downtown sanctuary. Next, Foti has teased alternate versions of the Remember Me shows, called Remember You, which will be a solo experience for extreme haunt fans and those looking for a more intense journey. It’s worth noting that these episodes will only be available for Count’s Den members, and those non-members that have already attended the corresponding Remember Me performance.
What Foti has created here with her vampire coven is the kind of environment that encourages fans to become true patrons of her art; the shows give a thrilling backstory to these ancient creatures that begs to be further explored. Be it a sensation drawn from a casual sip of whiskey on a bench with a brooding stranger, or a blood-curdling scream piercing the night of an engagement party, Remember Me: Elizabeth, and the Den it is born from, are well poised as fine indicators of the exciting future of progressive immersive entertainment.