A Trap Street
Old school cartographers would spend a lot of time to create accurate maps. So, as a sort of copyright, they would add a “trap street” — a little alley or avenue that doesn’t actually exist. The idea of adding in a little secret or magic to a real space helped inspire the art-centric, experiential company, Trap Street.
Immersed sits down with Trap Street founder Chad Eschman to discuss the evolution and inspirations for this amazing new immersive company as well as their newest event, Darkness Comes Alive.
Much like the trap streets of the past, Eschman explains that they follow a similar approach in their design: “We start with real spaces, but then add a little magic. Here’s how it works: We hunt down a space in L.A. we think is beautiful or strange or interesting. After spending some time there, we create an event that helps you explore and appreciate it. Then…we add that “trap street” element, to make you question your experience.”
Providing an example, he discusses a previous immersive experience they imbued with a little of this magic: “Nautapocalypse was set at Iron Triangle Brewery, which is a beautiful space on its own. But at our show, a giant earthquake hits, and a submarine surfaces in Echo Park Lake. The show builds from this fictional “trap street.” We let you decide if it’s all a hoax, or if the apocalypse has finally come.”
A Family of Storytellers
“At its heart, Trap Street is a group of storytellers who like to explore the unexpected,” Eschman explains. While their work spans multiple mediums, all of their work is about uncovering secrets. “We want to show you the story behind the story, and blur the lines between fiction and reality.”
As for who is part of Trap Street, Eschman says, “We have an amazing, tight-knit group of artists. It’s like a family, and we think that comes through in the work. Our process is highly collaborative and a bit unorthodox, but it kind of has to be. When we’re custom-building a theatrical event for a neon art studio, for instance, there’s no rulebook. That gets us excited, and we want to share that feeling of excitement with you.”
Darkness Comes Alive
Their current project is an off-the-map audio tour of neon art within the Lili Lakich Studio called Darkness Comes Alive. “My collaborator Amy Thorstenson had the idea of doing an audio tour, and she was also really excited about neon art.” This experience was inspired from one of Eschman’s first memories from when he moved to L.A.: the neon Mona Lisa in front of Lakich’s studio. “It struck me, especially because there was no info on how to get inside. So, when we met Lili, we discovered this hidden wonderland of neon art, and a rich backstory to her life and career. There was this ongoing theme of spirituality, and we thought: Let’s bring people in to tour the space like museum, but sprinkle in something supernatural.”
Dive to Your Own Depth
While Trap Street are fans of interactive and immersive experiences, their experiences are often no-contact and are as interactive as the guests want it to be. “We let you wander and exist in an off-kilter world, and decide how involved you want to get, or how deep you want to dig.”
For Darkness Comes Alive specifically, three different guides — an undertaker, a vigilante, and a true believer — will lead tours through the space, each with their own beliefs and their own agendas. “You can start and end the tours whenever you want, and listen in any order. Because of that, each person’s experience will be different. There are also some extra secrets to discover.” As for the three guides, Eschman teases, “They’ll ask you to do a few things on your own in the gallery. But it’s also possible they’ll be standing right next to you, sipping on wine. So: Make sure to take off your headphones and talk to someone new.”
A beer-fueled party celebrating the fact that we’re all still alive—Nautapocalypse was a fantastic, immersive party pervaded by a live-radio broadcast. This broadcast provided a play-by-play of the dangerous happenings in Los Angeles and helped progress the narrative. “We want it to feel like you’re part of one big group, facing the apocalypse together, making the best of your last night on Earth. You’re ordering beers and mingling…when suddenly the person next to you gets into a big fight, or starts doing push-ups, or bursts into song. And in those moments, the real story unfolds.”
This event was a favorite of the Trap Street team. “The members of Trap Street really do like to party together, so this show is a lot of fun.” And when asked about a remount, well, they’re definitely talking about it.
A Big Cocktail Geek
Craft alcohol is a common staple in Trap Street experiences. “Personally, I’m a big cocktail geek, and most of our meetings are stocked with beer and wine.” Focusing on party atmosphere and inclusivity, Eschman describes his motivations: “We want our shows to feel like celebrations, where everyone’s welcome, and you can make new friends.”
The inclusion of specialty cocktails, great wine, or craft beer in a party-like atmosphere can also make immersive entertainment a little more inviting to the unindoctrinated. “Prosecenium theatre sometimes feels elitist, and the haunt community sometimes feels intimidating. Here, we want you to relax and raise a glass.”
The Future of Trap Street
Trap Street is constantly looking to the future, scheming over late-night drinks, and discussing what’s next. Eschman does not mention any upcoming immersive experiences, but he does speak to their film and podcast work: “We have a short film called Never Stop, which is currently in post-production, and an ongoing podcast called Rogue Bottle. This fall we’re starting a new film project, but I can’t say much more than that.”
Final Words from Chad Eschman
Trap Street experiences are a hidden secret within a grounded reality. There’s something special, something clandestine, and something personal in this feeling. “We want you feel like you just discovered a secret. Something hidden in plain sight, that you’ve walked passed a hundred times. Like if you found out that your favorite bar is run by vampires, or if you stumbled onto a Metro line that takes you back in time.”
“When you leave our shows, we want you to look around the city, and feel like you can see something shimmering beneath the surface.”