It’s Alive: The Creation of The Creation — The EOI Review

The cast of It's Alive: The Frankenstein Immersive Experience

I am deep in the bowels of a mausoleum, my eyes locked behind a blindfold and my gloved hands shoved deep inside something squishy and very wet. (Is it intestines? The chest cavity?) I strain to figure out what the noises in front of me might mean. (Is that ripping skin? Is that a bunsen burner turning on?) All I know for certain is that I am lost in the memories of the true creator of all of this, Mary Shelley. And I fear there is much more horror yet to come for it’s alive.

Chanel Castaneda as Mary Shelley

It’s Alive advertises itself as a “Frankenstein intimate immersive experience.” That description is both accurate and a vast understatement for one of my favorite experiences this Halloween. It’s Alive is far more than a Frankenstein story. It is the story of how Frankenstein came to be. It is the story of why Mary Shelley felt compelled to write about a mad scientist and his poor creation. Best of all, it is a fantastic immersive experience with so many characters and storylines that multiple viewings still won’t catch everything.

It’s Alive begins at the moment Mary Shelley learns of her husband’s death from a boating accident. Because of plague fears at the time, Percy Shelley’s body is cremated. All Mary Shelley receives to bury is Percy’s heart which refused to burn. With that startling piece of emotional imagery in her hands, (more startling still because it’s an actual historical fact,) Mary begins to mourn.

But it’s far more than her husband she grieves for, and It’s Alive delves into the full weight of both Mary and Percy’s histories. Audiences break apart and weave together as they traverse the massive Mountain View Mausoleum, interacting with everyone involved in the creation of Frankenstein. Mary’s sisters whisk individual members off to have a private scene in the darkness. A pair of the audience digs up body parts by a grave outside. A handful spies on Dr. Polidori professing his love to a married woman. For two hours, the show weaves its audience in and out of moments of these peoples’ lives in a way that feels like a combination of ghost story and gothic ballet. By its completion, each audience member will understand exactly why Mary’s tears fall so deeply at yet another moment of grief.

It’s Alive Cast at the Mountain View Mausoleum

It’s Alive works on every level possible. The writing (from John Armstrong and Devon Armstrong) perfectly combines the style of Shelley and Byron’s poetry and Mary’s novel. And yet, it remains very accessible for modern audiences thanks to director Devon Armstrong’s very smart staging and choices for when to have characters directly interact with audiences. Moreover, a show like this requires exceptional choreographing of its audience so that each member gets a full experience with no wasted time. The first version of this show at the Heritage Center in Los Angeles did this well; this version has perfected that timing into an art form. I was brought through nearly every corner and floor of the mausoleum and never did I feel like I was waiting for anything or anyone.

Dr. Frankenstein (Robert Schaefer) summons you.

The cast of It’s Alive also does a stellar job throughout, with every actor working in top form to bring these historical figures to life. Chanel Castañeda effortlessly shifts between the true happiness of Mary in love to the heart-wrenching grief of her loss and captures both perfectly. Jahnavi Alyssa’s portrayal of Claire Clairemont displayed raw grief in such a visceral way it is spellbinding. The deeply sad story of Harriet Shelley (Percy’s first wife) gets an equally (and wonderfully) sad evisceration from Rachel Levy. Alec Gaylord as Percy and James Fowler as Byron capture the egocentrism of those poets and their male-centric “free love” attitudes so well it made me angry at them. Lulu Royce’s version of Fanny was the living embodiment of lost innocence and nearly impossible to watch. Even the one fictional character roaming this performance, Dr. Frankenstein himself, was horrifically presented by Robert Schaefer in a wonderfully dark, twisted persona that drags people off to do monstrous things.

Percy Shelley (Alec Gaylord)

It’s Alive is the perfect example of great immersive theater. It brings a well-crafted and well-executed show to a wonderful location. It imbues the production with a talented cast that knows how to draw their audience ever deeper into their tale. One can hope that shows like these might even become a holiday tradition, for you could do no better for a Halloween night than fall into this exploration of the truth behind the fiction of Frankenstein. For as many of the characters here say, without these people and the life they gave Mary Shelley, the creation would never have been born.

It’s Alive has four more shows this weekend, but only the Saturday at 9PM show has tickets remaining. Tickets are $60 and can be found here. Contact the organizers for any waiting list if you want to try another slot.


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Eye on the Horizon: Don’t Follow The Lights from Mystic Ventures

Don't Follow The Lights from Mystic Ventures immersive theatre virtual remote experience mystic ventures halloween dark fantasy

If you’ve ever wanted to get lost in the faerie realms through the magic of the internet, we’ve got a late October Halloween journey just for you. Mystic Ventures Collective brings you this type of story with their online experience Don’t Follow The Lights.

Performances run Oct. 23-24 and 30-31 with two shows (9 and 10:30 PM PDT) each night. Audiences are welcome from any location through the internet.

Tickets are $25.

For more information, check out the press release below and their event link.


You were warned. Don’t wander into a ring of mushrooms. Don’t stray off the path in the dark forest. Definitely don’t follow the lights, as tempting as they seem.

But you didn’t listen, did you? And now you find yourself in a most precarious situation. Lost in the fairy realm. Watch out for the strange folk, lurking in the forests and singing from the seas. Seek out the helpful little fae and heed their warnings.

Mystic Ventures Collective presents Don’t Follow the Lights, a virtual immersive dark fantasy adventure. The show will feature a mix of pre-recorded and live actors, gamified elements with riddles and puzzles, various possible endings influenced by audience actions, and spooky fun!

Don’t Follow the Lights will run 1 hour. Multiple viewings are encouraged as audience will experience a different show depending on their actions. The show will be hosted on gather.town. Requires internet connection, a laptop or desktop with microphone and video camera, and firefox or chrome.

If you are interested in booking Don’t Follow the Lights as a private party or a team building event, please email Mystic Ventures Collective at mysticventurescollective@gmail.com


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The Autumn Experiment’s On With the Show: A First Love Letter to Classic Halloween

I’m waiting on a street corner, watching two men in kitschy pumpkin-sack masks gallop towards me. They wear shirts that say “10” and “31,” respectively, and grip my arms tightly as we walk down the street towards our destination. I gather that we’re trick-or-treating together, but none of the houses we pass seems just “right.” That is, of course, until we reach the last one. The one with the fog gently billowing out the front drive. I see a small figure kneeling on the ground and I squint to make it out, just as I realize my guides have vanished and I’m now here alone. The figure is a child, her long dark hair over her face, a dress so white it seems to glow. She’s drawing something on a sheet of paper on the ground. I take a breath and crouch down in front of her. “My name’s Mischief, what’s yours?” I answer her and she opens her mouth in a dramatic, overdrawn cackle. It unnerves me. She stops as abruptly as she started, and continues to draw, humming to herself. “Halloween is coming,” she mumbles, her eyes dark and hollow, and I open my mouth to speak just as a set of gentle, firm hands grip me from behind and hoist me back to my feet.

Autumn experiment, on with the show
Tom Blunt and Galen Adair as 10 and 31

Witches. Three of them, their faces hidden from view, they take turns whirling me to face them. One of them dabs at my wrist with a wick soaked in perfume oil. It smells damp and sweet, like Fall. She asks me if I know about “Spook Shows,” the old take on haunted houses that challenged guests to only the bravest of guests. But it was a lie, in a sense. Nothing really scary ever happened at spook shows. They were all just a gimmick to get people to have fun. Another witch gently touches my face with a gloved hand and turns me towards her, putting a cup of warm liquid in my hand: apple cider. It’s perfect. 

She tells me that even though they weren’t truly frightening, Spook Shows were eventually outlawed due to a series of unfortunate accidents. It wasn’t until year later that a young man with fond memories of the Spook Shows of his youth decided to recreate the festive scares. He called it The Autumn Experiment. But then he met a man who claimed he wanted to invest in the idea and…well…something went very wrong.

The autumn experiment, on with the show
Stepy Kamei, Jocelyn Gajeway, and Sarah Uplinger as the Witches

The witches all begin to chant in unison, closing in on me. Something about immersive theatre’s latest and greatest, monsters coming to life, participants being carried off into the darkness. The chanting dies out as there’s a tug at my sleeve. I look down to see the Mischief again, her eyes now wide black pools. I lean down to her and she hands me a drawing. It’s The Halloween Cowboy, drawn in the loving way only a child could, but he looks very sad.

She thrusts the page into my hand. “We weren’t supposed to meet this way,” she says. She tells me he, whoever he is, just wanted to make things like they were, to bring back something people loved. But it’s ruined now. Broken. Now she doesn’t know what happens next. No one does.

The autumn experiment, on with the show
Lillith Barriel as Mischief

She tilts her head back and lets out that braying laugh again, cracking the misty air. All at once she stops and shoots her arm out towards the street I arrived from, one long finger extended. “Warn them. Warn your friends. Halloween is coming. HALLOWEEN IS COMING!” She shrieks and I swim my way back out to the street through the growing fog. 

I inhale the cool air once back on the pavement, that damp, sweet smell still lingering on my skin. If Halloween is coming, I think, glancing back over my shoulder, I’ll be the first to say hello.


Halloween 2019 came, and went, but Halloween is never over for The Autumn Experiment. The above was a recap of the first full Autumn Experiment experience, On With The Show. The show combined classic whimsy with a heavy dollop of the macabre, enough to make the overall essence of the performance ripe with nostalgia for October nights gone by. The Autumn Experiment hopes to bring back that warm and fuzzy and yes, a bit scary, feeling of Halloween’s past, one story at a time, and it’s a welcome addition to an immersive theatre landscape that can sometimes rely too often on a heavy dramatic hand.


The Autumn Experiment is the collaborative effort of Drew Rausch and Jocelyn Gajeway. Find the Autumn Experiment on Instagram and visit their website at www.theautumnexperiment.com to sign up for newsletter updates so this year round celebration of Halloween doesn’t pass you by.


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