Theme park designers creating new interactive theater experience ‘The Republic’ in Orlando

in Entertainment, Events, Theme Parks

What happens when you mash up theater, themed environments, interactivity, and video games into one experience? Orlando will find out later this year, when The Republic debuts.

Taking place in a 18,000 square foot warehouse in downtown Orlando, The Republic will send 30 players on an 80-minute adventure across an elaborate maze filled with actors, special effects, music, and sounds, and puzzles putting attendees in control of how it all ends up.

The Republic creator Sarah Elger is an attraction designer at Universal Creative, formerly a Disney Imagineer. Though by day she is assisting in the creation of Universal Orlando’s next big attraction (which she can’t talk about, naturally), her spare time is consumed with creating this unique attraction of her own, not satisfied with the constraints of traditional theater.

“I’ve always been interested in pushing the arts into a new realm, into something innovative and inspiring,” explained Elger. Armed with a graduate background in architecture, she set out to find a way to combine that passion with two others, dance and painting. Her first production, The Labyrinth Experiment, laid the groundwork for what will become The Republic. “We were blindly trying to find a way to create an experience that pushed people to think and took the audience out of their seats and into the action of a production. I want the audience to feel like they are the stars in their own play and get to make decisions that affect their play.”

The Labyrinth Experiment

Elger also spent some weeks volunteering in New York to help build Sleep No More, the critically acclaimed groundbreaking immersive theatrical experience. Now she aims to take that concept even further, requiring the audience to interact.

She’s aided by fellow Universal designers and Imagineers – writers, designers, and engineers – working in their free time to use their talents to create something entirely new. (Full disclosure: I too am involved in working on The Republic, bringing my own set of skills to their already tremendously talented team.)

The Republic will indeed be a game, emphasizes Elger. Though there won’t be points, winners, or losers, there will be multiple endings and a variety of “worlds” to traverse. Across the giant maze exists an alternate society, based on pieces of Greek mythology, Plato’s Republic, and Fritz Lang’s legendary expressionist film “Metropolis.”

“The sets are going to be elaborate, overwhelming at times, and there are going to be moving elements, special effects, and elements that warp your sense of reality,” said Elger. “The space design alone will immediately draw you into this new world.”

Upon entering, players will be thrust into one of three areas, The Republic, The Office, or The Labyrinth, and allowed to explore entirely on their own, encountering other players as well as actors – non player characters – some intended to aid in the game, others to deceive.

The Republic will be a hands-on experience, not only physically interacting with environments but with people as well. Though it has some similarities, Elger insists this experience is not a haunted house (“extreme” or otherwise) and its story does not reside in the horror genre. But that’s not to say participants won’t get scared. The Republic will be open to adults 18 and up only, as it may contain nudity, violent moments, suggestive themes, strong language, and graphic images. “You may be kidnapped, you will be touched, you will feel uncomfortable, you will be watched, so this is not for the faint of heart,” added Elger.

The experience is set to debut at the Orlando Fringe Festival in May as a “beta test” before launching into several months of weekly performances.

Right now, Sarah and her team are focused on raising funds via Indiegogo, with a goal of $30,000 to reach by February 10 to help pay for warehouse space, lumber, special effects, lighting, sound, costumes, prosthetics, makeup, actors, and more:

In addition, the first rounds of acting auditions will be held on January 31 and February 1, in search of performers who are great at improv while staying in character.

More information can be found on The Republic’s web site, and on Facebook.

Note: Going forward, much like my involvement with the Radley Haunted House last year, The Republic will largely be covered here on Outside the Magic, as it is intended for adults and exists outside the realm of theme parks, though with obvious connections through its creators.

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