ISSUED: 16 October 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Cecelia Mason
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Theater students at Shepherd University are working on a unique fall production. Rather than a traditional play, they are creating the Cryptid Cave escape room in which audience members will have to solve mysteries and work puzzles to get out.
The Marinoff Theater is being transformed into a cave filled with several famous West Virginia cryptids. Theater students are scripting an experience that includes Mothman, the Flatwoods Monster, Sheepsquatch, Snarly Yow, and Blue Devil.
“Mothman has taken some of West Virginia’s other cryptid’s hostage so that he can reign supreme as the most popular cryptid,” said kb saine, associate professor of theater.
Four to six audience members at a time will be able to enter the cave with a goal of freeing the cryptids who were taken hostage and also freeing themselves.
“It is a production,” Saine said. “The students are doing all of the things we would do for a regular play production. Because escape rooms are so popular right now, it allows them to show the practical application of the degree they’re earning in a different way.”
Chase Molden, theater tech director, is overseeing construction. He said the Marinoff now has what amounts to a small house inside of it with close to 57 walls that make up various rooms and passageways.
“It’s been built based on the students’ ideas as opposed to what would normally happen in theater—which is when there’s a set script and you get to build based off of that,” Molden said. “I’m still not quite sure what’s going to happen, so the whole thing is built very flexibly so if any point something has to change, we can knock out a wall and build something in its place.”
El Lepp, a theater major from Charleston, West Virginia, is an escape room stage manager who is enjoying the experience of working on the project.
“I think it’s really interesting since we are devising this rather that it being a traditional theater experience where we don’t have a script and blocking,” Lepp said. “It’s a really cool and collaborative project, and I also think it’s something new and contemporary that we’re bringing to the area. It will be really cool to see how different groups are able to understand the puzzles that we’ve made and to see the breakdown of all of that happening in real time. Sarah Ward, a theater and music education major from Charles Town, West Virginia, has also enjoyed working on the project in class and seeing how ideas have evolved.
“This space is wonderful for bouncing ideas off of people and for creating some really great art because it’s judgement free,” Ward said. “We have put a lot of hard work into this escape room. Pretty much every weekday for about four or five hours we sit in this room and just hash things out and rehearse and build costumes and other things like that. I’m really excited for people to watch everything come to fruition.”
“I love the process of taking the blueprints and putting them into something to show everyone else, and I’m proud of the work that we’ve put into this,” said Avery Copenhaver, a theater major from Martinsburg, West Virginia. “Sara and I play the park rangers, so we’ll have to be in the room with the escapees during the whole thing. That will definitely be a challenge. I’m excited to test my ability.”
A core group of students started working with saine in the summer to plan the escape room, and they’ve spent all fall in their Advanced Theater Practice class working on the production. They’ve written scripts, created costumes, built puzzles, helped construct the room, and will test everything before opening day.
“I think it’s going to be very popular,” saine said. “It’s a such a cool way for the public to get excited about the work we do and to really engage with it and interact with it. Theater is so often about coming into a space to be witness to a story. This allows every audience literally to play a hand in how the story progresses and how it evolves.”
“From a people watching standpoint, I’m always interested to see how different groups of people interact with situations that they are not used to,” Molden added. “We have a lot of people in this area who are familiar with CATF [Contemporary American Theater Festival] and familiar with the university and the usual things that we do. I am interested to see how they react being in a cave and figuring it out, and just seeing the thought processes.”
The Cryptid Cave escape room will be open October 25 and 26 from 6-10 p.m.; October 27 from 4-10 p.m.; October 28 from 2-10 p.m.; November 1 and 2 from 6-10 p.m.; November 3 from 4-10 p.m.; and November 4 from 2-10 p.m. Admission is $15 for the public; $10 for Shepherd employees and alumni; and free for Shepherd students with a valid Rambler ID.
Listen to an interview with kb saine and Chase Molden here
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