You know me, I’m always on the hunt for the best concerts and live arts experiences around the Bay Area. And I just struck GOLD! This special nugget is called The Speakeasy, the ultimate immersive theater experience that unravels a series of adventures and a whole lot of fun. If you love the flare of the 1920’s and you’re looking for a fresh and new venture to explore (and a reason to dress in dazzling Gatsby attire!), this underground theatrical fantasy is worth every penny!
We recently went to The Speakeasy with some friends and I’m here to say that it exceeded my expectations tenfold! The night was filled with music, dancing, comedy acts and drama while we rolled our dice in an underground casino. We even got to explore secret passages, hidden rooms and was pulled into a few of the scenes with the cast!
Recently, I went back and had the opportunity to sat down with some of The Speakeasy’s Creators and Producers Geoffrey Libby (below center) and Nick Olivero (below far right) to get the inside scoop on how it all started. Scroll down to find out what inspired the creation of The Speakeasy, see my top ten tips and facts to know before you go, learn about the fun stories behind their modernized-prohibition cocktails and find out more about our upcoming all-inclusive Red Curtain Addict VIP Event on June 1st!
How did it all start?
The Speakeasy is produced via the Boxcar Theatre, a Bay Area local theater company started by Nick Olivero in 2005. Nick founded the company with only $800 that quickly turned into a $100K company that has now blossomed into a $1M company because of the amazing success of The Speakeasy.
“I was really drawn into the hidden passages, lies, and secrecies of an underground theater experience, which led to the idea of creating a speakeasy story,” said Nick. “And stories set around a speakeasy seemed to be best explored through immersive theater, so that’s how we kind of arrived here.” Nick has directed and produced all kinds of theater (including 60-70 productions just at The Box Car Theater alone!). “I’m a storyteller. I’ll tell any story if it’s good. The medium in which you choose to tell the story is really there to act as a service to the story and we love how this turned out.”
Ticket holders don’t know exactly where the 10,000 square foot underground venue is until 24 hours before the show. You are told to find someone wearing a certain article of clothing on a certain cross street in San Francisco. After you tell them a secret phrase (that is messaged to you from The Speakeasy), they lead you to one of the entrances. My favorite is the “clock shop” where you get toenter the theater through a grandfather clock. I’m not even kidding!! It’s amazing.
“We built everything that you see,” said Geoffery Libby, Producer and Scenic Designer. “This space used to be a one-screen movie theater with 460 seats. There were no alternate levels to it. We built the mezzanine and every room.” There are over seven rooms to explore, including the main bar, the casino, the cabaret theater (my personal favorite!), Sal’s office and more. “We went back and forth about the design and orientation to make everything fit so it met the criteria that we needed.”
The cast and script
There are 35 actors, 29 storylines and over 1500 pages of script! Unlike any other theater experience, the actors are really never “off stage” and there is never a break in the intensity. There are even scenes in the bathroom! “We wrote in when the characters use the restroom because they really can’t “leave” the show and break character since the audience is always moving around them,” said Nick. “You really never know when something is going to happen!”
The creation of the script started in 2013 on a writing retreat where Nick asked his fellow creators “who would be in a speakeasy and why would they be there.” They wrote out all their ideas on big white sheets of paper that were propped on the walls and the stories and characters began to evolve.
“One of my favorite characters is Dorothy (a crowd favorite), that is a school teacher during the day but likes to let loose at night,” said Nick. “However, she’s very lonely. There were a lot of rules for teachers back in that time around what they could and could not do and where they could and could not go. So it really deals with women’s rights in that time and Dorothy choosing her own life underground at the Speakeasy.”
10 Tips and Facts to Know Before Seeing the Show
When I went the first time with friends, my eyes were wide open because there were so many things to explore and see. However, I found out afterward that I had missed really unique parts in the show and must-see rooms. So I thought I’d share a few things I wish I had known before the who and my top tips for getting the most out of your experience…
Before the Show
- Don’t drink a ton before going to The Speakeasy because there are a lot of unique and hidden bars to explore. Plus, their signature drinks are worth waiting for – trust me!
- Wear shoes that are easy to walk in and don’t hurt your feet from standing
- You can “purchase a character” if you’re looking to really be involved in the show. You even get a costume fitting!
- Phones are not allowed at any time during your experience (which is really refreshing!) so grab your group photos before the event
- This experience is a lot of fun with a bunch of friends! Click HERE to join our group on Friday, June 1st and receive VIP
During the Show
- A great place to start is the Cabaret Theather where you’ll see comedy skits and musical performances. But don’t wait for someone to come and lead you into the next room. I suggest getting some champagne and caviar and once you’re done, move on to the Gas Lamp Lounge for more cocktails and drama.
- Don’t just watch the people on “stage” in the Cabaret Theater. If you look around you, you’ll find a lot of cast in character that has their own stories happening
- Find a character you like and follow them around for a bit. You really get to see their journey and get to know more about their storyline
- Definitely try to swing by the dressing room area. It’s a bit hidden but it’s fun to find
- Be in the moment and choose your own kind of night! What’s great about this experience and that you can make it whatever you want it to be. Have fun!!
The Inspiration Behind the Cocktails
One of the many things I love about The Speakeasy is their eclectic selection of cocktails. They even serve original drinks from the prohibition era (right down to the original ingredients!), “This is a really exciting time to be into bartending right now because there’s a lot of passion behind some of the old and classic cocktails and spins on classic cocktails,” said Geoffery. “You weren’t able to access some of these global ingredients back in the 90’s but they’re now available again because of this renewed interest in these drinks.”
Geoffery has been “behind the stick” for around eighteen years and was one of the masterminds behind a lot of their signature cocktail menu. After doing a lot of studying and taste-testing, he developed a mixture of blends that are dangerously delicious! “I arrived at a list of cocktails that are great representations of the era but exciting to a modern pallet as well,” said Geoffery.
Scroll below to find out what inspired the names of some of his favorite cocktails…
“The naming of the cocktails is one of my favorite things to do!” said Geoffery. “A really good cocktail name should give you a sense of what’s happening in the ingredient and it should capture the essence of the experience too.”
The name of the “Doctor’s Orders” cocktail came from the fact that Old Forester was available as a medicinal liquor during prohibition. So taking that idea of “whiskey” is just what the doctor ordered is how the name came to be. Within the first sip, you’ll taste a mix of gentian amaro, a bright floralness and somewhat of a medicinal quality from chartreuse. Fun Fact: Old Forester is the oldest and longest running whiskey distillery in the United States.
The Velvet Sea
The name comes from one of the major ingredients, velvet falernum (a very sweet liquor used in a lot of rum cocktails). Traditionally when you think of what people drank at sea, they drank rum. So the idea behind “The Velvet Sea” is that it incorporates those two things where you get a sense of the ingredients (rum) and a hint to its tropical flavors.
Geoffery showed me how to make a few of his drinks and I was more than impressed with how precise everything step was. “I’ve worked really hard to standardize our cocktails down to a quarter ounce or less,” said Geoffery.
My personal favorite is their Uptown Royale that has Ford’s gin, grapefruit, lemon, champagne, Luxardo and black lemon bitters. I learned that name was given by one of their investors that lives in the upper east side (hence the reference to uptown) and that when you see the word “royale” in a drink, it means there is champagne in the ingredients – who knew??
Red Curtain Addict VIP Event on Friday, June 1, 2018
Now it’s YOUR turn to come experience The Speakeasy for yourself, sip on some of their tasty drinks and meet the cast and crew! On Friday, June 1st we are thrilled to be hosting a Red Curtain Addict Exclusive VIP Event that includes…
- Full access to The Speakeasy (plus a 30% discount!)
- Premium seats
- Complimentary “casino chips” to use at the gambling tables
- A complimentary cocktails
- Access to our exclusive after-party
(original photos by Trisha Leeper)
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