Atlassian (a global powerhouse tech company with a large office in Austin, TX) has been a consistent client of ours over the years. Every January they have their yearly holiday party celebrating the hard work of their employees over the past year.
They always want to provide a surprising and delightful interactive event experience, unlike anything they or their employees have ever seen before. For the 2020 party, they wanted something extra special.
This is our ideal challenge.
CORPORATE PARTY, AUSTIN
Swing & Tap Dancers
8 Celebrity Suspects
Strolling Champagne Dress
1920s MURDER MYSTERY
THE BIG QUESTIONS
How do you create an immersive experience for 400 people who all have different levels of commitment to joining in on the experience?
What does it mean for an immersive experience to have an opt-in/opt-out element?
We were immediately inspired by our client’s venue - The Driskill Hotel. The Driskill is a historic Downtown Austin landmark notorious for the many hauntings within its halls throughout its 150 years in operation. It’s the perfect landscape for a custom Murder Mystery. Early on in our talks, we brought Atlassian’s event team to our creative planning sessions to get their input on the era, characters, plot, and basic outline.
It was an instant and effortless collaboration. We’ve been designing immersive experiences for Atlassian for years and their trust in our abilities makes them one of our absolute favorite clients. We knew their 400 event attendees wanted something original and weren’t afraid of surprises.
At CIRCUS PICNIC, we like to do everything we can in-house. We provide turnkey experiences that our clients don’t have to worry about. Here’s what we came up with for Atlassian...
WHAT WE DELIVERED
A completely customized Murder Mystery theatrical show with a cast of 8 charismatic characters based on celebrities from the roaring 20s.
Five specially dressed rooms set aside for the Murder Mystery that included hundreds of hidden handmade clues and accessories specific to each character. The Studio, The Library, The Parlour, The Observatory, and The Scene of the Crime. These places were outlined on a Map handed out to each attendee and posted throughout the venue.
When the stage show wasn’t happening, the characters roamed between these rooms to engage with each other and the party guests. Guests could also ask them any questions or even ask them to show off their various talents.
Rooms and parts of the ballroom that were completely free of Murder Mystery characters or clues that guests could go to if they needed an introvert retreat, refreshment, or spot to catch up with their friends and co-workers.
A clue board that was continually updated by “Ernest Hemingway”. Guests who showed up later to the party or missed part of the stage show were directed to go to him to get an update on the latest news. Guessers could reference the clue board at any time during the event.
A scripted stage show was written by award-winning playwright Kaci Beeler with 3 full-cast scenes chock full of humor, mystery, and murder clues. This was interspersed with time for the characters and audience to roam throughout the rest of the venue.
A cast of professional improv-actors who could play our notorious 1920s Jazz Age suspects: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Greta Garbo, D.W. Griffith, Coco Chanel, Duke Ellington, and Pablo Picasso.
Authentic 1920s costume design by CP visionary and co-founder Kelly Greenheart.
A suspect booklet where guests could take notes about the clues they found and their best guesses at the murder and motive.
And if that wasn’t enough, CIRCUS PICNIC provided lots of additional ambient entertainment spaced throughout the venue. Not only were all these amazing talents dispersed throughout the party, they were also dressed to the nines in 1920s garb designed by Kelly Greenheart.
CHARLESTON SWING DANCE
POP UP PERFORMANCES
TAP DANCING DUO
The 1920s are known as a time of glamour, freedom from conformity and stodginess, and epic parties that last until sunrise where champagne flows freely in sparkling coups. This event truly felt like one of those nights!
Guests and performers were dressed in their 20s best, The Driskill was a gorgeous and larger-than-life venue, and guests really got into the spirit of things.
We wondered just how much people would want to engage with our actors and storyline, and the answer was...A LOT. It’s a good thing we cast improvisers because guests were ready with non-stop questions about each character's motive and more than happy to participate throughout the evening.
Our actors were happily busy for all 3 hours of the activation. At one point during the roaming portion, Picasso was teaching a curious guest how to paint the female form in The Studio WHILE Scott Fitzgerald calmed a funny tantrum from his wife Zelda in The Ballroom AT THE SAME TIME that D.W. Griffith and Greta Garbo attempted to rehearse a very suspect scene about evading a murderer in The Library.
Coco Chanel channeled ghosts in The Observatory while Duke Ellington led guests to the taped outline of a body in Guest Room #203. During all this, Ernest Hemingway was content to spill the gin about anyone and everyone in The Parlour.
You couldn’t pick a bad spot!
At the end of the immersive experience, guests all wrote down their pick for the murderer and motive. While there were hundreds of guesses (and many very close guesses) the winner won a future night’s stay at the historic Driskill Hotel.
How’s that for a roaring 20s murder mystery? We’d do it again in a heartbeat, doll.
Photos by Lacey Seymour