Immersive Theater Concept 'The Speakeasy' Returns With New Home This Summer

The Speakeasy, an immersive theater experience in which audience members are engaged in the show, will reopen this summer in its permanent home, bringing flappers, mobsters and more to a secret location near the Chinatown-North Beach border every weekend.

The show started as a production of Boxcar Theatre, founded in 2005 by Nick A. Olivero, and had an initial sold-out run of 75 shows in 2014 at a "secret" location in the Tenderloin. It was done up to look like a Prohibition-era nightclub complete with a dance hall room and "gambling" den. The audience is required to dress in cocktail attire, and they're encouraged to wear period clothing.

Instead of sitting in one location watching a script unfold, patrons are urged to roam around to watch the action unfold in different vignettes. "If you’re to follow a character track, rather than sitting in a room, you’ll get a different experience," Olivero told us. Part of the fun is that you can see the show multiple times and always have different experiences. "It will never be possible to see everything," he said.

The show has even more in this new incarnation, with 1,000 pages of scripted material for its 35 characters—some of whom have changed quite a bit from the first run, Olivero noted. "We’ve been focusing on developing the characters more; giving them stronger back stories; threading sequences in and out of other scenes and interconnecting things," Olivero said. "Just digging in deeper."

The new space is three times the size of the former, with 9,050 square feet, and will hold 250 people per night. It has all of the same rooms as last time, but they've added new ones, such as saloon owner Sal's office, and other "nooks and crannies," Olivero said.

To preserve the mystery of the speakeasy vibe, audience members won't receive the address when they buy tickets, Olivero mentioned. Instead, they'll meet a lurking character on the street or local landmarks, and from there, get further direction. "People like the mystery; they like the exclusivity," he added. "It’s fun for us; it’s fun for the audience."

New to the show are actors Ron Campbell and Mark Nassar. The award-winning Campbell toured the world for five years as lead clown in Cirque du Soleil's Kooza, and he's also portrayed Cecil B. DeGrille for Teatro ZinZanni. For The Speakeasy, Campbell will create the role of Eddie, the cabaret emcee. Nassar is the co-creator of Tony n' Tina's Wedding, still the longest-running Off-Broadway comedy, and has toured with various plays and worked in film and television. For The Speakeasy, he'll play the part of Sal.

Shows will begin previews August 12th, with the official opening slated for October. At that point, shows will run at 7:30pm Thursday–Saturday and at 5pm alternate Sundays. (On Sundays when the show is dark, look for nights with multiple neo-vaudeville acts, such as hip hop belly dancing, acrobats, stand-up comedians and big bands.)

Presale tickets will go online at 10am June 9th to members of Club 1923 and affiliated groups. Tickets for the general public will go on sale June 13th. For information, online sales and to register as a Club 1923 member, which will have an annual fee, visit Tickets for previews will be $85 and the regular run will be around $100; the cost of Club 1923 hasn't been determined.

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Immersive theater the speakeasy returns