With a little over three months to go until Halloween Horrors Nights kicks off at Universal Studios Florida on September 18, followed by Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa on September 25, I’ve itching for a good interactive maze experience. Thankfully, I had a chance to visit The Republic, an immersive theater experience in Orlando.
While it’s not quite a Halloween maze, it borrows elements from that genre, merges them with theater and improve, and adds a sprinkling of Plato’s Republic and Greek mythology to come up with something that’s hard to describe but oh so fun.
My love of haunted houses is probably a big reason while I enjoyed The Republic so much, especially since I’m a theater fan too. It reminded me somewhat of the Alone experience at Howl-O-Scream, but a much more intense version. While Alone was a more personalized version of a Halloween maze in terms of being by yourself or only with your own group instead of in a conga line, it went by the typical rules of no touching of guests by scareactors and static scenes that play out the same for everyone.
In contrast, at The Republic, you sign a waive that lets you in for full contact, possibly all the way up to being kidnapped. You know those scenes in traditional haunted houses where it looks like they grabbed someone out of the line, but it’s just a shill? Not at The Republic!
Also, it’s the flip side of Alone in terms of not being guaranteed to stay with your group. Instead, you’re very likely to be separated and become members of different social classes who are likely at odds with each other. Indeed, at times it seems like everyone is at odds with everyone, and it’s up to you to figure out who to trust and follow. The players’ actions determine the final outcome, which means that The Republic can play out very differently each time you experience it if you go more than once.
If you enjoy The Republic, you’ll probably want to fit in a repeat before it ends its run on July 25. Personally, I felt that the 90 minute show flew by because it was so easy to get immersed in the experience. It all felt a bit overwhelming, too, so I’d love to do it again now that I fully understand the concept. You’re in a dim, confusing maze of rooms, often attempting to fulfill a task as you encounter various characters and make decisions on alliances. It’s very much a live-action version of an RPG.
So where, exactly, is The Republic? It’s just off the I-4 Ivanhoe exit in Downtown Orlando, in a suitably creepy warehouse that houses an 18,000 square foot set. it debuted during the Fringe Festival and continues its run through late July. For ticket information visit the official website.
Want to meet some of the characters? Here they are!
Here are a few words from the show’s creater, Sarah Elger:
And finally, a tiny bit of the show to whet your appetite: