What would you do if a fairytale character walked into your house?
Would your jaw drop when Cinderella walked around your living room with one glass slipper looking for her Prince Charming? Or when Winnie the Pooh asked your friends if they’ve seen Tigger?
Imagine now that you had to help them solve their dilemmas…
Unfortunately, with the current state of the world, these fantastic experiences are further out of the realms of possibility than they ever were before the lockdown.
In your quest to battle boredom, if you’ve run out of brownie recipes, watched everything on Netflix, and are waiting for replacement thumb grips for your game console…
You might be curious about an experience akin to inviting distressed fairytale characters into your home to solve their life-problems. Let us tell you a little about the future of in-home entertainment.
It’s called The Secret Library– “a virtual, immersive experience like a live broadway show that also involves puzzles that unravel a mystery and ultimately lead you to victory…And it all happens through your interactions with live characters in the world of The Secret Library.”
But it didn’t start out with ground-breaking performances and long ticket queues. The Secret Library was a serendipitous and painstaking project born of two theatrical geniuses, a pandemic, and an oddly named theatre company…
Introducing Odd-O-Ts Entertainment…
And the first theatrical genius, Todd Zimmerman. He’s the co-founder of Odd-O-T’s Entertainment, an agency that creates whimsically gripping immersive theater experiences for live audiences.
Immersive theater is a type of performance that jumps off the theatrical stage to immerse audiences in a performance. Audiences explore worlds of fantasy and imagination by interacting with their surroundings and the characters inhabiting them.
Odd-O-Ts creates fantastically decorated environments to create the atmosphere, and then adds the secret sauce that makes it all work.
“… You kind of go into a place and you feel fully immersed…but the characters are what bring it to life!”– Todd Zimmerman
Leading up to 2020 business was booming for Odd-O-T’s Entertainment. Todd had events lined up across the calendar for 2020. He and his star-studded roster of performers were looking forward to a busy and productive year…
But then the unthinkable happened…
The lockdown forced Todd to cancel all of Odd-O-T’s booked events and ask his actors to return to their out-of-state homes for the foreseeable future.
Telling employees that he couldn’t support them was hard enough, but telling a fellow actor they couldn’t practice their passion was brutal for Todd.
“Sure, a performer lives from paycheck to paycheck, but they live from applause to applause.”– Todd Zimmerman
With social distance rules in place, Odd-O-T’s Entertainment was put on standby. And Todd was left scrabbling for a solution to keep his business from shutting down.
Todd reached out to the second theatrical genius Debra Beardsley, an old friend who happened to be a designer of one of the very first escape rooms in Orlando titled It’s a Trap!
Like Todd, Debra shares the same passion for immersive theater, which is the idea that entertainment should be a two-way experience between actors and audiences, not just an audience consuming content.
“…it’s more about audiences being able to participate and feeling like they have an active role in the piece itself.”– Debra Beardsley
With a shared passion, they took on the challenge of saving Odd-O-Ts Entertainment under extremely challenging conditions. They set their sights on creating a virtual immersive theater experience that people could watch, enjoy, and engage with through the internet!
With a moon-shot goal in place, they drummed up a script, costumes, and rounded up the actors to devise their first event.
“Debra and I decided that this is the opportunity to do an immersive experience virtually. Something that immerses you as you’re in your own home… but how can we make that work with our actors?”– Todd Zimmerman
With the ingredients in hand, Todd and Debra went to work in their theatrical laboratory and cooked up…
The Secret Library
The Secret Library concept was an online immersive adventure where participants would interact with characters, virtual surroundings, and other participants to complete challenges and puzzles, ultimately leading towards solving the mystery of the Secret Library!
The show would walk participants through a prologue, assigning everyone a task to track down the mysterious oracle, the only one who can open the Secret Library. To do that, participants would divide into teams and collaborate with characters located around a virtual mansion.
Objectives would include searching for clues, questioning suspicious characters, and working collaboratively with other participants. All to uncover the mysteries surrounding the ethereal realm of knowledge!
But bringing this vision to life was the next challenge.
Because a production like the Secret Library had a serious wishlist of technological requirements…
To start with, Todd and Debra needed a virtual mansion – a space that would let people move around while staying immersed in the production.
Participants would need to interact with the virtual environment to complete tasks such as interacting with live characters, other audience members, and finding and solving puzzles that were scattered throughout virtual space.
But how do you find a virtual mansion?
Todd and Debra tested many different virtual events platforms, relentlessly searching for the one that could transfer the feeling of immersive theatre into people’s homes.
The biggest challenge for Odd-O-Ts Entertainment was finding a platform that made participants feel fully immersed in their virtual environment, even down to the casual chit-chat between participants and actors.
For Todd and Debra, immersive theatre couldn’t be like a video game, it had to be an interactive experience where audiences’ decisions impacted how the story would unfold.
“Looking at some of the different platforms… some gave us the idea that you were fully immersed in this world… But they just felt more like a video game. We felt like those platforms were for a different crowd than we were looking for.”– Todd Zimmerman
After weeks of platform hunting and testing, Debra discovered Remo!
Remo was a perfect fit for their immersive theatrical masterpiece without feeling overly digitized or gamified. The ability to move from table-to-table, the clickable banners that took guests to other rooms, and the custom-designed floor plans that allowed the guests to move freely around the virtual space.
“We love the map… Remo gives people free agency to move about wherever they want on a two-dimensional map that we can design. It’s not just a stock thing, it fits into this fantastical atmosphere that we’re trying to create… it just kind of clicked.”– Debra Beardsley
What attracted Todd was how simple it was to operate…
“This platform spoke to us in that respect. It gives guests autonomy… but at the same time, you don’t need to be a tech guru to enjoy it.”– Todd Zimmerman
Remo was the dream platform for Todd and Debra to present The Secret Library!
After months of intensive preparation, Odd-O-Ts was finally ready to announce their first virtual immersive theater event to the public…
And, did they live happily ever after???
The Secret Library production has been a smash hit throughout the tail end of 2020. It’s been a landmark accomplishment for Todd and Debra and the Odd-O-Ts Entertainment family. And it’s going to be a permanent fixture even after COVID-19 becomes an afterthought.
The virtual aspect of the Secret Library means that Odd-O-Ts can extend its reach to both domestic and international audiences.
If you want to experience the magic and adventure of The Secret Library, the event is held every Saturday at 7:30 pm EST.
And coming in February, The Secret Library: Escape Atlantis – a virtual escape room with challenging puzzles and a unique storyline within the Secret Library narrative universe.
You can book your session and find details here.