When it was time to create our first immersive theatrical production, we found ourselves with two topics that we wanted to bring to life: a western, and the court of Versailles. Our first idea was to create an ‘experience bar’; similar to an escape game provider, where often you have a choice of themes, we wanted to have a venue which would offer two different experiences on any given night.
Around that time, I participated in an intensive business workshop. I pitched the idea of the experience bar, and while the business coaches were interested, all they could see were euro signs flashing everywhere - it would be an expensive endeavor. They recommended I start smaller, with one experience - to test out the market, the business model and even my desire to create immersive experiences - and then to grow from there.
Ready to focus on one experience, us cake girls had to choose. Did we want to create an immersive experience for the French audience? In which case we’d do the western. Or did we want to create an experience for the tourists and expat community? In which case we’d do Versailles.
Having been a Paris history tour guide for a couple of years (one of my favorite jobs to date!), I knew there wasn’t much diversity in the experiences offered to the tourists. Travelers taking my tours would often say how they wished they could feel what it was like ‘back then’ as we strolled through monuments and landmarks. A few years later, when I was thinking about which immersive show to bring to life, I was showing my cousin around the Chateau of Versailles when she said the same thing - she was dreaming of gliding through those majestic halls dressed in beautiful dresses to experience what it was like ‘back then’. The choice became clear - we would bring Versailles to life!
Now, we still had the question of which era of Versailles to feature. But as a company that loves to showcase badass women, especially badass women from history, we quickly knew our choice HAD to be Marie-Antoinette.
We went to work diligently on Marie-Antoinette, but our western idea was not forgotten. Three of the four company founders are American; the wild west is in our blood. Elena had also played Annie Oakley for 12 years in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Disneyland. We knew that a western-themed show would not only be a way to bridge the cultural gap between our US background and adopted home country of France, but it would also be a fun way to showcase yet more phenomenal women in history.
Our love of fascinating periods of history and fierce female figures didn’t stop there. Having been a burlesque performer and producer for 9 years - 5 of those years spent creating cabarets and training performers in Paris with fellow cake girl, Elena - I tapped back into our love of feathers and clandestine activities to create our speakeasy cabaret experience. Moonshine, mobsters and music were our inspirations in conjuring up this outlawed world.
Being a burlesque artist cultivated our love of all things taboo and wild. We really enjoyed booking performers with specialty acts like sword swallowers, fakir artists and gender-benders. It reminded us so much of the traveling US sideshows of the 1930s. A place where you could be anyone you wanted, no questions asked. You were allowed to let your inner - and outer - freak shine! And that’s how the Amazing Traveling Imaginarium was born.