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  • Writer's pictureMichele McNally

6 Unbelievable Immersive Theatre Stories

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

I know I’m not alone here; I miss live theatre. Watching it, making it, hearing about it. Anything can happen when you’re part of a live audience, and in Immersive Theatre, that’s especially true.

Immersive Theatre comes in all shapes and sizes, but one thing that’s constant throughout is that each performance is as different as the audience that attends it. Sometimes the audience can drive the entire outcome of a scene. And that means that sometimes things can go very, very wrong.

We reached out to some of our friends in the Immersive community and asked them, what’s the weirdest, most hilarious or unexpected thing that has ever happened to you during an immersive performance, and boy, did they deliver!

This Accidental Theft:

At the end of a show, we stage managers are always in a flurry to reset everything as quickly as possible for the next group. One end-of-show duty is to collect the keys, clues, and gewgaws handed out over the course of the show, because props ain't cheap.

One time, a group handed back something that didn't belong alongside the usual clues— a very real, un-whimsical ring of keys. "Sorry," they said sheepishly, "We don't remember where these came from. Someone thought they were part of the show."

So now I'm responsible for these poor lost keys that were just trekked across half of Manhattan. Honestly, this kind of snag is my favorite part of immersive theater— while groups are sleuthing their way through the show, I've got my own little mystery to untangle. Once everything had been reset, I took a closer look at the keys. There was a CitiBike key fob with an ID number, and as a shot in the dark, I called CitiBike customer service.

"We can't put you in contact with the owner, but we can tell you their name." Sure, go ahead, we're only in the most populous city in the world. But the owner turned out to be an actor in the cast that day. But how did the audience members get her keys?

The actor also had no idea. She hadn't realized the keys had left her person until I told her I had them. The only explanation we could come to was that the audience had vastly overestimated the criminal skill we expect from showgoers, and had actually pickpocketed her. So, of all the petty crimes you need to be careful of in NYC, you can now add "robbery by immersive theater dorks" to the list.

-Sarah, New York City

Thank Heaven For Unobservant Audience Members:

Our Gatsby fainted just after his opening scene. He had been introduced to the whole party, welcomed everyone, introduced himself to Nick Carraway, left to take a phone call and collapsed. His understudy got in costume and replaced him before the next lines.

Most of the audience didn't even notice the actor had changed (the actor playing Gatsby was fine).

-Brian Hook, Immersive Gatsby, London UK

I Hope This Didn’t Cause Any Marital Problems:

My lead... who also happens to be my husband... found a hole in our game design and decided the ending that night didn't work because too many teams contradicted each other. (He wasn't wrong, there was a hole but we had already called an ending and informed the cast.) So at the exact time of the reveal he walked on stage and said something completely off script that absolutely nobody was expecting leaving the rest of our interactors to invent and improvise a brand new ending on stage in front of 150 people.

Eventually the decision fell to the best-dressed man in the crowd: our costume designer: "What do YOU think we should do Colonel Wilson??!"

"uhhhhhh--- No?"

"The Colonel has spoken!!!"

I would have murdered him if I wasn't married to him.

This Pretty Understandable Reaction, TBH

I was in a dark space, with one audience member, seated and facing away from me watching another actor leave. I was supposed to say, “What are you doing there all alone?” and slide down the carpeted incline, all sexy-like before reading his palm.

Instead I said, “What--” and he started screaming in the most hilarious manner I’ve ever heard. We spent the whole scene giggling and just trying to get through it. A little bit later I had another scene with him (he was blindfolded) and again he broke me. He spent a good portion of the scene crawling around going, “Oh no, oh I don’t like this, oh no, oh dear” and giggling.

I got to talk to him later and he said he loved the show. It was a good day

I Guess That Was Their Least Favorite Child

I performed regularly in a show that had a stop on the Brooklyn Bridge. In order to open a lock with a four-digit code, the actor at that stop would always have one person in the group walk over to a nearby plaque to find the answer in the years listed there. Once, he asked the teenage daughter of a family group to go get the answer, but while she was gone, the rest of the family figured it out, solved the puzzle and moved on to the next location WITHOUT her. The actor didn’t realize they’d left her behind, and also left the location to go home for the day.

Not a big deal right? Surely the daughter would realize they’d left her and call or text them to meet up. Only, they’d thought it was part of the show, that she’d been “kidnapped” by the actor, and they left the bridge WITH her purse and cell phone.

I was the final actor in the show, which meant I got to break character afterwards and hand out programs, ask them if they had fun, etc. They replied, “We had a great time, but where is my daughter?” It actually took QUITE some time for me to convince them that I genuinely had no idea, and that this was NOT part of the show. Then, the daughter’s cell phone started ringing, and the mom answered it. My heart stopped when she looked at me wide-eyed and said, “It’s the police.”

THANK GOD, the daughter had found a police officer at the bridge, and he’d taken her back to the station and called her phone for her. They left immediately to go pick her up, and thankfully did not leave a Yelp review about the experience.

-Diana, New York City

We Don’t Have The Budget to Post Your Bail

We had a bit of a traffic jam one day, and so one of our actors brought a group around the corner from their usual location so that he could finish the scene without the next group creeping up on them. While he was away, the next group showed up. With no actor there to start their scene, they started speculating on what they were supposed to do, and somehow landed on, “I guess we’re supposed to break into that Brownstone?”

The owner of the Brownstone knew we used the sidewalk in front of his house as a location, but our actor wasn’t there and he saw two big dudes trying to jimmy his front door open, so he called the cops. It just so happened that the nearest officers were plain-clothed police officers. Since they weren’t in uniform, the group assumed they were actors and started to taunt them-- “Nice badge, it looks really convincing."

Our actor, having sent the first group along and heading back to his location, turned the corner just in time to see two of his audience members being handcuffed. Luckily he was able to explain to both the police officers and the homeowner what had happened. Needless to say, we stopped using that block for that scene.

-Danielle, New York City

(Posts have been slightly edited for clarity, comedic effect or ya know...grammar.)

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