Experiences are the evolution of a service, elevating a simple product into a memory and forging a connection between audience and brand. Thus, its no surprise that an increasing number of companies are looking to immersive entertainment to promote a property or to make a night out that much more special. House of Spirits is one such experience, looking to transform a cocktail party into an experience that will haunt the minds of audiences.
Immersed had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin Madden of Fever and Justin and Melissa Meyer of Meyer2Meyer Entertainment to discuss this upcoming immersive cocktail installation for the Halloween season.
In your own words, what is House of Spirits?
House of Spirits is a haunted cocktail soirée inside of a macabre, historic mansion. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy themed cocktails, dabble in the dark arts courtesy of some incredible Magic Castle Magicians, and experience a wide variety of live entertainment that includes musicians, burlesque, tarot card readers, and even puppeteers! Guests have the freedom to explore the house at their own leisure, and are encouraged to engage with the characters in order to uncover hidden clues and miniature adventures that reveal hidden, secret stories of the house.
Can you speak to the talented team behind House of Spirits? How did Fever get teamed up with Melissa and Justin Meyer?
Meyer2Meyer Entertainment was approached by Fever during the launch of our 2019 show, Kaleidoscope Experience, to feature the event on their Fever App. After attending Kaleidoscope Experience and another Meyer2Meyer Entertainment experience called Rated R Speakeasy, Fever became interested in partnering with us to create a new, original Halloween event. We have an extensive background in creating and operating live, horror-themed attractions, something we’ve been doing in L.A. for the last decade. Justin was the Creative Director and Melissa the COO of The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, NY Haunted Hayride and Great Horror Campout for ten years. We also recently directed and cast the What We Do In the Shadows experience for FX during San Diego Comic-Con 2019. Meyer2Meyer Entertainment is incredibly lucky to work with a very talented core team of artists, costumers, special FX artists and production coordinators. We saw how incredible Fever was with marketing and advertising, so we thought a collaboration made a lot of sense. Fever also produced the Mad Hatter Gin (and Tea) Party, which is pretty unique and has run for four months in Hollywood.
With a story based on the final days of the Spanish artist, Goya, what inspired your team to create this experience? Are there any specific films, novels, comics, or other immersives that influenced you?
I (Justin) crafted an original storyline loosely inspired by the last days of Francisco Goya. Our story centers around a mysterious descendant and avid collector of Goya’s work, artist Francisco Vega. Vega is suffering from a great loss and finds himself on the edge of madness, cloistered away inside an old mansion. His paintings come to life and lead him down a dark path to a mysterious end. This storyline mixed with Meyer2Meyer Entertainment’s unique sandbox-style, open-world party experiences paired together perfectly. I have many influences, but for House of Spirits, I cite Goya and his Black Painting fresco series as my main source of inspiration, as well as the artwork and stories of Clive Barker, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammel’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, and even the surrealist film works of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Immersive entertainment wouldn’t be what it is today without Sleep No More, a show that I (like many others) was moved and inspired by. Strong surrealist themes, abstract and avant-garde fashion will also play highly into the overall aesthetic of the show.
As Goya’s paintings come to life, how will guests interact with them? Will it be sandbox-style where guests can interact as they see fit? Or will it be a multi- or linear-tracked experience in which small groups will move from room to room to interact with a painting? Or will it be more of a spectator event with guests watching scenes unfold?
Goya plays an important role in our show. His themes, his art style, his life story all heavily influenced our own original story, the story of Francisco Vega. It is Vega’s final days, his paintings and what they represent that is the real mystery of the night. Figuring out why and how his paintings have come to life will lead to the discovery of what is truly haunting the House of Spirits. The experience will be a “sandbox style” party – you are free to roam, explore and interact with characters and objects in the house at your leisure. The more you do, the more you will discover. There are miniature “mission” style games within the world as well, should you wish to follow certain clues or advice from the characters. Guests who are looking for a more relaxed, social experience will also find that the environment is well suited to simply sit back, sip their cocktails, and enjoy live entertainment as well.
Beyond that of live actors, will there be other opportunities to interact with your surroundings. This could include photo ops, memorable props hidden away, or even a mystery to dive into for a deeper look at the lore?
One highlight “prop” will be our giant Ouija wall that guests can ask questions and speak to and it will respond. But be careful! You can never be sure who or what you’re speaking to! There will be additional photo opportunities, but the focus for this particular event is to enjoy an atmospheric cocktail party and/or dive deep into the many layers and many stories that the house possesses and hopefully forget about your phone for a couple hours!
With a heavy focus on cocktails, how will the narrative be mixed in with the liquid spirits? Can you hint at some of the drinks being served? What was the process taken in creating the drinks?
We have partnered with the amazing mixologists behind the highly successful Bubble Tap to craft cocktails that guests will be familiar enough with, but with a twist to tie them into the themes of the experience. The cocktails are a critical part of the enjoyment of this experience, so to ensure the guest is drinking something they like, we’re designing our cocktails to have the flexibility to be mixed with different kinds of spirits and still taste amazing! Thus, we are allowing the guests to “select their spirit” from a small selection of popular spirits, another example of the “free choice” style of this experience.
Locations often become characters in their story. The description teases this location as a historic venue; why was your specific location selected and what attributes were needed to fully tell your story and evoke your theme?
The House of Spirits is the star of the show! Our location is truly a historic mansion with a fun history all its own. With its natural flow and layout, its macabre aura and turn-of-the-century architecture, it was the haunted house of our nightmares! It is a house that holds a million stories, secrets and mysteries within its walls, and we have come to add to the collection.
In creating this experience, how do you balance the time and effort needed to craft a strong narrative, gorgeous sets, and appetizing cocktails? What is your process to ensure that they all compliment each other and create a memorable experience for guests?
The only way to balance such a complicated and layered show is to put an incredible team of creative professionals behind it. That’s exactly what Meyer2Meyer Entertainment and Fever have done, from incredible creature/monster designers, FX artists, costumers, musicians, puppeteers, Magic Castle Magicians, to story developers, directors, choreographers, scenic and lighting professionals, mixologists, to graphic artists, and advertising geniuses! We have been developing the idea and working closely with each member of the team to design, coordinate and tightly weave all of the show elements together in order to execute a truly unique haunted experience for everyone this Halloween.
As a Halloween experience, how does horror factor into this experience? How scary will it be? Will guests be touched, jump-scared, or is the experience more atmospheric? Is this meant for horror fans, cocktail enthusiasts, or both?
With our sandbox-style approach, the guest is in charge of how scary versus atmospheric they wish their experience to be. Guests willing to take things to a deeper level will have the opportunity for a more tactile, sensory-deprived experience, where as guests looking to simply enjoy their cocktails in relative peace will be left safely to do so. Our scare tactics will include a variety of styles, some creepy, some jumpy, but we feel this experience ultimately lives somewhere in the world of the macabre and the surreal.
What do you want people to walk away from your experience with? What do you want them to feel or learn?
Whether you decide to enjoy the cocktails and live entertainment at face value, or whether you decide to delve deeply into the myriad storylines that layer the experience, the hope is that you walk away with a new perspective on the way stories can be told and experienced, as well as a discovery that there is no right or wrong answer to the questions you ask yourself during an experience. We hope the guests discover that the answers to their questions are based on the way they reflect back on the experience, how it made them feel and the way it stirred their imagination.