Names are powerful. They are our doorway to a company. They are a handshake, a first impression. They connect us to their brand, informing us of what we should expect. They have the power to build a long-lasting relationship or turn away a potential customer. But often times more important than the name itself is the story behind those names. Understanding how and why creators chose the name they did provides a strong connection to the values and meaning instilled in that company.
Haunting interviewed some of the best immersive companies and creators in the industry today to discover the story behind their company’s name. These stories are inspiring, thoughtful, and hilarious.
We originally wanted to name it The 18th Door but then ended up watching a documentary on the 18th Street Gang, which was started in Los Angeles. So we decided to register the domain names for both The 17th Door and The 19th Door. During our build we ran out of money, so we went with The 17th Door.
“In 2014 I was invited to design an experience for a yearly, weekend long, vaudvillian show called Beyond Brookledge. There were no constraints and initially, there was supposed to 52 guests — the perfect number for a card trick!
My initial intention was to call the show ‘The Most Convoluted Card Trick Ever’ in which each guest, would work at unrelated tasks for 90 minutes for but one revelation — a chosen playing card. A few weeks before the event, I was told that 3 guests backed out and there would be only 49.
The card trick idea was filed away for another time and I simply looked at what I had on my table.
The 49 Boxes” – Michael Borys
At the time of the great cycling of energies, sometime in the late 1940s––one development of which was thereby felt within Free Jazz’s explosion out of Bebop, hitherto an unfelt moment––a paper was submitted on behalf of an organization to the Trademark Assignment System (required by 15 U.S.C. §§ 1057 and 1060 (and submitted and processed concurrent with USPTO) of the trademark assignment recordation requests using the newly created Manuals for Trademark Assignment System (MTAS), which had newly been issued) which thusly altered the status of said organization from the incorporated nonprofit secured 501(c)(3) status to an operational and fully functioning S Corporation, becoming exempt from federal income while also securing a large line of credit with which to move forward in pursuit of human betterment. It so happened that a certain low-level paper-pusher type operative, back then known as a computer (one who computes and was literally a paper-pusher because he actually did the hand-driven, paper and tape pulling of rows of non-rational numbers through matrices of other non-rational numbers for the express purpose of calculating yet other non-rational numbers that said this or that about some function of the organization and actually, truth be told, drove most of the choices of said organization, these human computers did (though they themselves had no knowledge of what they themselves were doing beyond running numbers that beget other numbers)), was filling in for an equally low-level paper-pusher in a different division, someone who fills out forms by hand from the moment they punch in till the moment they punch out (think assistant to an associate in a processing division), the type of thing friends do for each other––and the type of thing that seems perfectly innocent and achievable because of the whole “low-level paper pusher” thing being had in common––and even laudable, and yet apparently is not (and is not in such a monumental way that it set the future of the organization on a new course for which down it still barrels to this day in the modern form of the organization and is the entire reason for this anecdote in relation to the question “what’s in a name”)––when the low-level paper pusher type operative, whom, we must again impress upon you, is almost wholly and strictly familiar with numbers and moving those numbers with manual dexterity on nearly-infinitely long strips of tape through slots and slits and torqueing circular tables to align whole batches of numbers and then handing those numbers off to another computer (rather than writing anything down at all and especially never having perfected the art of spelling-qua-spelling as this operative never needed this skill set in the least and so any ability he had eroded like the landscape) and in fact this operative is so adept at that sort of thing, the manipulation of these charts and bands, that he could convincingly do some sleight of hand tricks even having never tried it before, filled in form 2313-1450 § 38(b) line 221––which was confusing enough because the questions weren’t right there by the blank line that was supposed to be fill in but instead had to be cross-referenced with another form (2313-1448 §§ 1(a) – 346(m) in the Manuel) (so you can already see this poor low-level computer’s confusion and subsequent problem and nearly preordained mistake coming a mile away)––with the wrong answer. The low-level paper-pusher type operative, cross-referencing a form fully two pages away in the reference manual from the correct form in which he was supposed to be using, all the while paying as close attention to the process as this ill-equipped gentleman could, entered what he thought was the answer to the request for “basis upon which said request form is being input and filed” and wrote down “a lone” (of course, meaning “a loan”––thinking he was filling a form out about the large amount of credit the organization needed in order to move its agenda forward––but misspelling it; ironically a computer who does not know how to spell, quite the reverse of today) but in fact this operative had inadvertently written this within the field requesting the new moniker of said organization on the form for the Trademark Assignment System as it altered from the nonprofit 501(c)(3) status to the newly formed S Corporation and written with such a sloppy hand that the article and the noun ran together in the field. It would be months before the mistake would come to light and hundreds of more forms were printed and filled out and resubmitted by hundreds of low-level paper-pusher type operatives without understanding there was a problem at all because of the operational structure of said organization wherein hundreds (possibly even thousands) of low-level employees only ever see their own single, minuscule section at a time (think a pixel to an image) and are basically in the dark, metaphorically speaking, about any overarching condition, and by the time it did come to light it was far too late to stop the enormous gears which had quietly and irrepressible begun revolving. What followed in the wake of this naming debacle within the organization could only be referred to as “heads rolling” (reportedly), after which the computers churning out their numbers output some series that for which the name was retained.
Usually I would spout some long, philosophical reasoning behind the naming, but it’s much more simple than that. Considering that Bileth is a demonic entity looming in the background of our podcast, Return Home, the Order of Bileth name was born from that as a matter of necessity. Known already to the audience of the immersive show, Bileth is trying to find her way back to this world, and the basis of last summer’s ARG was laying the groundwork for that. You can probably assume that Barry Under Your Bed comes from the fact that his name is Barry and his work shift is that from under your bed. Simple as that. Of course, these are just the show names, but I suppose people assume that they are the company name as well.
Under the umbrella of Bamfer Productions, we produce whatever weird stuff we want, whatever story catches our interest. The name was just something I made up in 5th grade because I thought the word sounded cool. I wish it was more interesting than that, but it’s just stuck over the years, from my film production company to the production company of the podcast, and now, immersive shows. In the Angelo-cornish dialect, Bamfer means to worry, to harass, to torment. So, let’s just go with that.
“In an initial stroke of marketing genius (serious <wink> to be inserted here), the original title for the show was nothing more than descriptive words so that it would come up first in online searches. We called it The NYC Halloween Haunted House. (Actually the first FIRST one was called Midsummer Nightmare but that’s a different story.) Eventually we had some producers join us and as the show began to grow, they convinced us we needed to change the name to start building an actual brand. Through that process, the title BLACKOUT was born and it immediately stuck. There wasn’t too much discussion around choosing it; once it was proposed, I think we all knew the name worked.” – Josh Randall and Kris Thor
The Blackwood Charter
It seemed like a perfect fit for a mysterious organization – reminiscent of forests and darkness. And, it had good SEO, so there’s that, too!
Coming from a background of traditional folk storytelling, I learned early on that stories have minds of their own. They’re sentient, molding themselves around those who tell them. They abuse, uplift, betray, inspire, visit us in our nightmares, and leave us wanting more. The act of telling a story is halfway between demonic possession and being visited by an old friend. Over the years, the story that has perhaps clung to me the most is an Eastern European folk tale called The Cottage of Candles. It is the parable of a man who has spent his entire life seeking justice in the world, but realizes too late to search within himself. The cottage in the story is the last place he thinks to look and, inside, he finds an innumerable amount of blazing oil candles, each representing the lifespan of a human soul on earth. In that spirit, Candle House Collective invites you to influence and bear witness to human stories in otherworldly contexts, in the hopes of helping you find what it is you’re searching for. We promise you: it’ll be in the last place you think to look.
When we were developing our first project, Hamlet-Mobile, we needed a production company name to complete our registration for the Hollywood Fringe Festival and couldn’t come up with anything. Finally one of us made the joke, “What about ‘Capital W,’ you know, for ‘Women.'” It stuck. And though our name began in jest, we’re a company of two feminist women artists who care deeply about creating roles for female, gender-queer, and non-binary people both onstage and offstage, so it turned out to be a perfect fit.
About 6 years ago, my main artistic focus was on writing and recording experimental music. The name “Derek of the Ceaseless Fun” came out of an inebriated brainstorming session with my girlfriend — I wanted a name for my music project that would capture the manic, unfiltered vibe of my recordings. A few years later, I was working on a short-run literary magazine with a friend. The title “Ceaseless Fun” very much fit the theme of the magazine, so we appropriated it from the now defunct musical project. When I got more serious about producing live performance in 2015, it only seemed natural to start attributing the work to “Ceaseless Fun” — a name that, at this point, seemed to be a core theme at the center of my artistic practice. What started as basically a stage name eventually grew into something closer to a company, and here we are!
Everyone loves a good play on words! When I first began developing what my entertainment company would look like, I knew that I wanted to create some kind of platform in which artists could collaborate. Even more than that, I wanted to develop narratives that the audience could actually be a part of! It’s simple: CoAct encompasses the idea of audiences and performers acting together to create a memorable story.
It was 2011, and I was caught in traffic on my way to our very first venue in L.A. I was thinking how I wanted to move on from our original company title “Haunted Play,” which I’ve held onto for many years. That time in the car was the first I’d thought on this subject. There was talk radio going on in the background, and as I reached to turn off the distraction, I heard a commentator say something about a man “… suffering from delusions thinking he could make it all work the way he wants.” That felt terribly appropriate given the insane path I was embarking upon!
Disco Dining Club
Personally, disco is much more than a genre. Disco is accepting your most hyperbolic self, and then sporting that self in the most public of places. I founded Disco Dining Club in 2015 to advocate a return to rambunctious, sloppy dinner parties. It seemed almost obvious that the easiest way to communicate this rambunctiousness to guests was to pair “Disco” and “Dining” (along with the inherent mystery of “Club”) in our name. The result? All who have entered Disco Dining Club emanate an unmatched colorful exuberance.
I don’t know if there’s any funny, thoughtful or interesting details to DR3AM LOGIKK’s name birth, but i can give u ACCURACY!
Attached iz the screenshot’d transcript of the txt convo between Karlie & i where it wuz conceived. heres sum context 2 the txts, if you want it: previous 2 this convo, we’d decided on the company name K6A6K – which stood 4 Karlie, Annie (McGraph, our 3rd producer at the time) & myself, with 66 (Karlie & my friendship #) woven in2 it.
“dream logic” is a term that (-i dont think wuz originated, but at least i know it through-) Jung & wuz actually one of the first things i’d been talking about az a way to actually create snow fridge – back b4 Snow Fridge wuz called Snow Fridge & wuz just a formless, rando idea of “hey wouldn’t it be cool if there wuz an immersive show that wuz 1 audience member & it wuz IMPROV?” (fun detail: if Karlie hadn’t been the the person I happened to be looking at when having this thought, there’d be nooooo snow fridge whatsoever – NO WAY. but Karlie responded with this like INSANELY not-Karlie-like intense authority, “I want to produce that with you. We. are. doing. that.” & i wuz lk, “ok. mb for fringe since thats coming up or sumthing..” & she wuz like, “YES. THIS. IS. HAPPENING.” & i wuz lk ‘…okee!..’ -ANYWAY–).
I was sitting at Villains Tavern – one of my favorite bars in L.A – with a group of friends, who were all trying to help me come up with a name for my new production company. I was several dirty martinis deep (as per usual), and the words ‘Drunken Devil’ came to me. I repeated them several times, and it just clicked. As I surveyed my surroundings – a ramshackle, devilishly-themed bar in the middle of Downtown L.A…live Dixieland jazz echoing throughout the cramped patio…cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air…I realized that this not only was the perfect name, but this boisterous bar in a dark part of town was the perfect aesthetic to base the company on. Voila, the birth of Drunken Devil.
DryCræft is Anglo-Saxon for witchcraft, and to me and Eric it also connoted the feeling of everyday working Los Angeles, which is a city of hustlers, a city which collects decay and transforms those dusty embers of unknown meaning and hidden potential into pure light. L.A. has a palpable witching energy that we play within, and it feeds our life, so we couldn’t not have Los Angeles in the name.
The three of us went on a road trip along the East Coast and we got into a huge fight as we were passing through Salem, MA. We were yelling and stressed and pretty tired of each other after being cooped up in a van for the past week, so we stopped the car and got out and sulked around town in silence while it rained. Then we passed a kitschy tourist trap and our moods changed. We couldn’t help ourselves – we went inside and spent the next hour getting photographed while dressed as witches. It was silly and unexpected and totally weird, and by the time our photo session finished we weren’t angry with each other any more. Dressing as witches in Salem, MA saved our friendship that day, so when we were thinking of names for our company this was a no-brainer – there were exactly three of us, and without those witch pictures we might never have made it to that point. E3W stands for Exactly 3 Witches.
The Elk-Owl Society is a very old institution. It was founded in 1902 in Poland by my great great grandfather. He was a boring moneylender surrounded by boring friends. One day he read an article on the newspaper about the FreeMasons and got all excited and inspired. So he founded his own secret society and started hosting underground soirees for members of the high society of his time. Extravagant dress code was strictly enforced and food and ritual were central to the experience.
The society ran for many years until its activity needed to be interrupted by World War II.
A distant cousin revived it in 1957 and hosted gathering only at European castles. The infamous surrealist party organized by Dali and the Rothschilds was backed in the shadow by the elk-owls (in the pictures you can observe several people dressed with antlers and there were a lot of real owls in there).
Unfortunately, the activity faded one more time. When I found out about the story on old documents after my mother passed away, we decided to bring it back to life with the simple goal of enjoying as much as we can the cosmic jiggle of existence, indulge our senses and encourage people’s creativity and self expression.
Even before my immersive days, I had a dream to make theatre more popular by making it more epic. I dreamt of event-driven theatre experiences with ambitious, Shakespearean universes that curated multidisciplinary and multicultural performance styles within the same event. I’ve always been bad at naming things, though, so when I hatched Epic Immersive, I wanted to call it the epically-terrible name ‘Silicon Valley Art Machine.’ A close friend told me as gently as she could that that was perhaps a terrible name, and asked me what it was I was trying to create with this company. I said “I don’t know, I just want to make epic, immersive experiences.” And so, with her help, the name was born.
I wish I had a witty story to tell – – The Tension Experience’s name is, well, elementary… Gordon, Clint and I wanted to create something that made you TENSE. We knew we were going to go places – – we knew we wanted to push the envelope AND we knew we wanted to come out the gate swinging, but didn’t want people later saying they were duped into thinking this was something it wasn’t.
We wanted a name that was simple and said EXACTLY what it was. The Tension Experience was an experience of just that… Tension.
The name Faceless Ventures originated from the always masked Blake Ciccone from our Cracked – Survival Experience shows. He never seen without his trademarked Gas Mask. At the start of every Cracked show the players have to read his monologue, his Lord’s Prayer, within it one paragraph explains our way of thinking perfectly: I am your love and your hate. I am your right and wrong. I am the space between your darkness and light I am your known and nameless Your familiar and faceless I am your angels and demons at war Your god, and your void. I am Blake, you are Blake, We are Blake.
The name Firelight came out of a TS Eliot poem that we fell in love with and based one of our early shows on that poem. “Under the firelight , under the brush, her hair spread out in fiery point.” We believe that the contrasting imagery of fire and light represent everything we are about: passion, love, loss, and desire.
We knew we wanted to create a haunt that was a place where “sex meets scares” and we settled on having Burlesque elements in our story. But what to call it? Depending on who you ask, the title was either created on a beach in Florida by me, or by Wes’s wife in Sherman Oaks. Either way, we are working hard on bringing a whole new set of shows to the baying lunatics who appreciate ghouls and garters in 2019.
The piece’s name itself is a beautiful example of how gradual and organic the project has been for us. The 1st part of the title made sense to us instantly: Andrew Heringer’s musical pseudonym is, “The Guest and the Host;” the 2nd part, “Make Music,” took more time. We listened to what guests experienced, asking them to answer a question Tommy Honton posed: “What did you (we) do here?” Then asking them: “How would you describe the experience?” Then collecting everyone’s thoughts until a compilation of them rang true for us. To be honest, simple as the title is, it took us a while to get to.
HELA Productions is from my original company, Horror Escapes L.A.
And Horror Escapes is because it’s a horror escape room. LOL.
The Count’s Den is “Count” from Dracula and Den because it looks like a living space.
The name came from a script I wrote about the death of my friend. I loved using that word which also described what I have always been viewed as (a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted). I also love The Exorcist films, but the second one, The Exorcist 2: The Heretic, is a guilty pleasure of mine. That is where I initially got my title and, although that movie is hated, it has something the others don’t. It’s pitched as a metaphysical psychological horror thriller which, if you think about it, is a cool concept. I think that movie is sort of like the Halloween 3 film; it doesn’t really fit in the scope, but those who love it worship it, and I like to think the same with my show.
I wanted something that spoke to the satirical nature of our experiences while still maintaining the ominous, scary tone of an extreme haunt. Other ideas were discussed, but ultimately, HVRTING emerged as a parody of Haunting itself. So, the Haunting “A” was inverted, and HVRTING was born. Now, we only laugh when people see our logo and ask what it means: “Well it’s a V, like in hurting!” I don’t think people get it.
I Pledge Allegiance
We wanted something that captured the cult-like nature of politics.
JFI (Just Fix It) Productions was our take on the classic line: “Well, if you don’t like your fate… change it.” It also hints at us wanting to put “our fix” on traditional ways of doing things, innovating on. In order to reinvent you must change/fix something. Oh, and I have a fun last name 🙂
I learned from improv at The Second City to always play “at the top of your intelligence” and trust that the audience would meet you there, to understand what you were going for. After all, as the original Terence said: “I am human, and I think nothing human is alien to me.” Why shouldn’t the audience understand your most personal complex and ‘out there’ musings? This concept of “meta” was always intriguing to me. I think I was first introduced to it when I was really little in the children’s book The Monster At The End Of This Book. As years went by I would notice how playing with these ideas ultimately led to this deeper connection between the artist and the audience. When the time came to name my company, I went with #metaforyou because I felt I was, and had been, offering ‘meta for you’ the whole time (hence was appropriate), and in this name there was also the acknowledgment of the ‘metaphor’ that is ‘you,’ and that is us, together creating reality, moment by moment.
I often turn to music for inspiration so I started sifting through albums and I landed on Black Dahlia Murder’s 2005 album, Miasma. The definition hit my every intention with the shows I wanted to produce: “an oppressive or unpleasant atmosphere that surrounds or emanates from something.” The name to stand as a warning itself – this will not be pleasant. Every iteration of Miasma begins and ends with that definition in mind.
I must have contemplated a dozen names before landing on Miasma – in fact, at least two of those names have been used by immersive/haunts at some point since that time.
Midsummer Scream came about out of the necessity of coming up with a name for our brand-new Halloween and horror convention in the spring of 2016, we only had a few months to launch the show, so we knew our name had to stand out and be instantly recognizable. I knew that we needed something that would convey, “Hey, this is a scary thing – and it’s in the middle of summer” quickly and easily. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a name that is well-known, and so I tweaked it a bit to be “Midsummer Scream”, which rolls nicely off the tongue. Midsummer Scream doesn’t anchor us or the content of the event to any one locale; the endgame for Midsummer, is to feature haunters, attractions, performers, and artisans from around the world, not just Los Angeles. Within the past three years, Midsummer Scream has become a beloved brand and con; it’s always just felt right, and now it proudly serves as a major platform for the amazing community of haunt and horror fans everywhere.
A good name comes from a place of passion; while it should give some idea what players should expect, its more about identifying where you coming from as a creator–the heart of it. The heart of Augeo will always be the struggle to find identity and meaning in a world that doesn’t necessarily accommodate that. the name is an example of that, a word with multiple meanings and origins.
“Everyone has different personas. People act differently around different people and in different situations, often feeling forced to act as stifled versions of themselves.
The name Pseudonym Productions originated when I was engrossed in grad school at the University of Pennsylvania and felt extremely out of place. I had to act as a specific type of person there and couldn’t just be “myself.” Pseudonym came out of my desire to have an outlet for who I really am, or even who I feel like being on any given day. I created this company to give myself a place where I can simply feel free; to have a “pseudonym” that lets me just be myself, no matter what that means to me.
These principles of the name are what we as a company now strive to create when designing every experience, enabling our players to enjoy that same freedom while connecting in healthy, meaningful ways with others across thrilling adventures. We like to say our players are still themselves while participating in our experiences, but for once they get a chance to be whatever version of themselves they want to be, rather than one they feel they’re supposed to be.”
– Sarah Elger, president & creative director, Pseudonym Productions
What, for Quietus? I basically thesaurussed my way to that. But it’s all the different definitions that made it work for me.
Literally, translated from Latin, you get quiet, tranquil, calm, peaceful. Something that has a calming or soothing effect. But more modern definitions go in the direction of death or something that causes death, regarded as a release from life. That juxtaposition, and the release from life being symbolic for an escape from the mundane. That did it for me.
The Reality X
Choosing a name for the mother company took weeks. It was very frustrating and had me up many nights pondering on it. I had my family and friends take little quizzes to see what stands out to them, do they prefer something sharp and edgy or classic and reserved. We were called, “checkmate,” but we felt that it would turn many people away, as people A) wouldn’t tie experiences and the name together, and B) people actually hate Chess and think it’s very boring. From the polls, people liked the letter X, (it felt more daring, edgy to them) and “Reality.” The “The” in the name people ignore, or just abbreviate the entire name, “the Reality X” but since “X” stands for experience, Reality Experience doesn’t make sense. The Reality experience does.
The founding fathers and mothers of Rogue Artists Ensemble met as undergrads in the theater program at the California State University of Irvine. We were the resistance in many ways, creating work that was experimental and boundary pushing in response to what at the time was a rather conservative program. After collaborating for a few years on campus, we were near graduating and needed to decide next steps. We met at the local Buca di Beppo’s, to what we thought was going to be a last supper celebration of our working together. However, it became clear that no one wanted things to end and we all felt strongly that the work was important to continue. Being the resistance and the rebels that we were we felt one inspiration worked best as a name…. Rogue Squadron from Star Wars. We soon became Rogue Artists Ensemble and like the freedom fighters, we also often call ourselves the Rogues too.
The name Rough House comes from director Peter Brook’s notion of ‘Rough Theatre,’ which is theater that is close to the people – it is crude, sincere and raucous. It is immediate and does not hide or disguise it’s devices of storytelling. Since it’s inception, Rough House has branched out beyond performing purely Rough shows. However, the thread through our work that has remained constant is that we lay bare our methods of theatricality. Puppeteers are exposed, light sources are not masked, sounds are produced live whenever possible. By sharing these elements, rather than obscuring them, we find that we are able to make a more earnest connection between audience and performer, story and imagination.
Although it took several months to settle on a name for Scout Expedition Co., our goal was twofold. First, it was important to convey a sense of adventure and discovery. This applies to the behavior of the audience, as in any interactive experience, but also to the structure of our creative process in developing shows, both past and future. We love to tinker and combine elements of several creative mediums to create something new! Second, it was vital that our name appealed to a wide variety of audience members – “Scout” is both simple and friendly, exciting without being threatening. And just as important, when the audience sees the text “Scout,” it’s often presented alongside our logo: a cuddly German Shepard pointing forward with purpose, embodying both of these ideals.
It is fitting that the genesis of Screenshot Productions came while members of the creative team on Fear Is What We Learned Here were listening to music in the garage that eventually became the space for that show. The song that triggered the name is appropriately entitled ‘Screenshot’ by the experimental rock group Swans. Beautiful instrumentation aside, lyrically the song deals with the theme of everything being in the present: like a screenshot. While music has continued to be a central focus in all the work we produce, the core values that we strive o foster through our work are intention, attention, and a deep appreciation for and grounding in the present moment.
While we recommend listening to the aforementioned song in its entirely, here are the closing lyrics that we feel encapsulate the power of presence that immersive experiences afford: Love! Now! Breathe! Now! Here! Now! Here! Now! Here! Now!
Shock Theater from Long Island, New York swiped their name from former horror host John Zacherly. In 1957, WCAU-TV syndicated Shock Theater’s first 52 episodes which played horror movies late at night on weekends. Horror hosts and horror culture are paramount for Shock Theater. Many films and iconic characters are what inspire us to create to this day, this is just paying respect to our favorite horror hosts and the work they have done.
When thinking of a name for our event I knew I wanted something simple and easy to remember. So before the name came about I began asking horror enthusiasts what scared them. This was going to help develop my theme for the season. I started to then ask, “What’s your Scary Place?” And it was at that moment the name “Scary Place” and our tag line “What’s your Scary Place” were born. Simple, easy to remember, and Scary Place starts with an S and a P. Just like our company Sinister Pointe.
The first immersive show created by what would become The Speakeasy Society was performed in a women’s restroom in the basement of CalArts. We had the opportunity to bring that show, The Weird Sisters, to L.A., and a very wise mentor said we needed to name our company before opening night.
She was right to predict that this wouldn’t just be a single show, but the beginning of something much larger. This was our chance to brand and share with LA who we were and what we wanted to do. With a rapidly approaching deadline – we set to work.
We wanted our name to be catchy and mysterious and memorable and marketable and reflective of the work and fun but serious, something that would speak to who we were and who we wanted to be… easy, right? No pressure? We tossed around ideas like Blind Pig (another term for a speakeasy) or Invisible Rollercoaster (i.e. we would wanted to create thrilling experiences in unexpected and unusual locations) – but those felt sort of generic – they could be band names or book titles.
We then started talking about the audience and how we wanted to create a sense of community and belonging- a society of sorts. Growing up we all wanted to be part of a special group – something like The Midnight Society from Are You Afraid of the Dark, The Babysitters Club, The T-Birds/Pink Ladies, etc…. And from there The Speakeasy Society was born, a group for those who want to go on an adventure or have an experience outside the day-to-day.
Sometimes our shows takes place in a hidden corner of the city, other times we ask you to engage a known space in a new context, seeing and experiencing the familiar in a new way … but regardless of where, when you attend a show by The Speakeasy Society, you are always initiated into the secret world of the play.
We build shows that reward our audience for their participation, for their commitment to the story or journey we are setting out for them, basically the idea is – you become a part of the society as you engage with our work.
There are two reasons my company is called Spy Brunch. One is that I like the combination of intrigue, humor, and food that the name implies… I tried to deliver all those elements in Safehouse ’77, and hopefully in my future work as well, whether or not it actually falls into the spy genre. I love any and all entertainment that straddles the line between serious and ridiculous. The second reason is that I had already registered Spy Brunch as an LLC several years ago to produce a short film entitled The Spy Who Came To Brunch, and I didn’t feel like filling out any more paperwork.
We were stuck in the entertainment industry and frustrated with the fear of originality in the studio system, so stumbling into the world of escape rooms and immersive theater was a shot in the arm for us. Creating something in this space became a priority. We wanted to produce work that was different, provocative, and rebellious and settled on getting caught up in a criminal enterprise and having to flush drugs; a stash house was the perfect set up for everything we wanted to capture.
We had planned to come up with an overarching name for the company and go the route of “Company Name presents Stash House.” We even settled on a traditional-sounding escape room business, but it never stuck. While most escape room companies use words like puzzle or lock and sound identical, we wanted our name to be something evocative and unique that gave you an exact sense of what it was. Stash House, as a name, was a no-brainer; it summarized the experience and tone perfectly. As we were physically building it out, it became clear to us that we were also building a world with history and characters that went beyond one experience. To set the tone for this world, a generic sounding name like Lockbox just wouldn’t do. But Stash House would.
They Played Productions is actually nothing more complicated than an extraction and evolution of a previous naming convention we had used. The first cooperative venture Thea Rivera and I did was called “HePlayedShePlayed,” a riff on the idea of “He Said, She Said’ and was about creating his and her takes on various subjects (the most common of which was video games).
When we decided to bring our forces together and work on joint projects, the idea of using “They Played” seemed a logical extrapolation from the previous work. It was also a term that we liked quite a bit because it suggests: cooperation, multiple ‘types’ of media/stories, fun, and even ‘gaming’ aspects such as LARP and other aspects In other words, we thought the idea was an obvious addition–and then we decided we really enjoyed the other connotations it generates. And so They Played Productions was born.
A “trap street” is an old map-maker’s trick: they’d add fictional streets to their maps to catch counterfeiters. Well, our productions begin with real locations—but then we dream up a stranger, more magical version of that place, and invite you to explore it. So the map is mostly real…but the story is full of trap streets. We want you to feel like you’re discovering a secret passage that everyone somehow missed.
You turn off the Main Street and find an alley with brick walls and some graffiti, and notice in the walls of this alley there are seven doors. Each door has a label or paint on it – one says This is the Place, another says STAY OUT, some have something indecipherable on them, but just one has nothing on it at all. In your quest to find “the entrance” to some mysterious experience you were told only this – go through the Unmarked Door.
As the company is all about first person experiences, and following clues to discover something unexpected, the name seemed to suggest itself.
Walk the Night
The title comes from Hamlet the Greater’s speech calling out from beyond the grave: “I am doomed to walk the night until the foul crimes done against me in my days of nature are burnt and purged away.” The initial question the first part of the series answers in its own way is: “What if every character in this story were doomed to walk the night, until the crimes committed against them were purged?” It’s stuck with me for the series of pieces because that’s at the core of any emotional processing of any event that haunts us… we relive it time and again until it has made its way through us, until we’ve processed it, separated out what we can’t live with and let those parts we can become part of us.
We were thinking of a name that would resonate with the ASMR world, one that could also sound like the name of a real spa. We experimented with a whole list of other names, some weirder than others, some were just onomatopoeic, but eventually we chose something that felt more like a destination, a place. That was more important because we wanted to transport people outside their own worlds.
With _whitehelix, we were looking for a name that fell somewhere in between horror and urban tech-thriller while representing an entity whose motives aren’t initially made clear. We eventually had that “click” moment. It could be hackers, could be a drug, but overall it represents an individual’s downward spiral caused from their own digital blemish.
Wicked Lit was the first show created by Unbound Productions. Since the mission of Unbound is to create new plays based on literary source material, and the focus of Wicked Lit is horror literature and folklore, the name came about as a riff on the phrase Wicked Literature. Hence Wicked Lit.
Shannon and I went through quite a few names for our fictitious institute of higher learning. Our first pitches were pretty painful, with things like “The Wanderlust Foundation,” and maybe even something with the word “Adventure” in it. Luckily, we shifted gears and decided to have our Institute be named after a person, instead of a generalized, lazy evocation of whimsy. We cycled through a ton of names: The Burton Foundation, for Richard Francis Burton; The Roxton Institute, for the Arthur Conan Doyle character; The Mallory Foundation, for George Mallory, and so on and so on. None of them felt quite right. Eventually, it was a love of musical theater that landed us on the perfect namesake: Sir Garnet Wolseley, the field marshal on whom W.S. Gilbert modeled the Modern Major General character in Pirates of Penzance. The name “Wolseley” was perfect: the Modern Major General was a shining example of the aesthetic we were going for, the surname “Wolseley” was a perfect mix of being simultaneously pretentious and laughably goofy sounding (on brand for us), and it was annoyingly hard to spell correctly. We stole the surname and gave it to our own fictional character namesake, Thaddeus Wolseley, so as not to be tied to any sort of historical accuracy, and soon The Thaddeus Wolseley Institute for Advancements in the Natural and Metaphysical Sciences was born. You can call us The Wolseley Institute for short.
Our name “Zombie Joe’s Underground” goes back waaaaaaaay deep into the blackened annals of ZJU’s wet n’ wild (and more chaotic) years. I received the my name “Zombie Joe” frommy good bud (who actually designed our ZJU Logo)…so dubbed from my catatonic state I would arrive at when having a little too much fun. The “Underground” part claims it’s roots to Dostoevsky, Artaud, Lermontov, Chekhov, Lucas, and well…into the plunge into darkness we all share on a daily basis. Ahhhh well, the name somehow stuck, but at least our productions are anything but catatonic! God Bless HAUNTING, only the best.”
– Zombie Joe 🙂 Leader, Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, Worldwide.