Escape room with a historical twist

(Source: The St. Catharines Standard, Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | by Bob Tymczyszyn)

Niagara Falls is about to gain another escape room site, but this one comes with a twist.

In the basement of the Niagara Military Museum on Victoria Avenue, Brock University students are busy readying for live testing as they prepare for launch at the end of the summer.

Dramatic Arts Associate Professor Natalie Alvarez said the idea was just by chance. “I phoned the Niagara Military Museum just to investigate to see the possibility of taking my students through a tour, and through a conversation, I found out they were interested in developing escape rooms.”

“As a professor of dramatic arts it occurred to me that this was a very rare opportunity to have students in the department of dramatic arts collaborate with students in interactive arts and science bringing their two specializations together, skills in directing, scriptwriting, acting, props and set design with students that were refining their skills in interactive narrative, puzzle, and cipher building.”

Alvarez says the half-term course of 13 weeks is completely devoted to creating escape rooms designed to the site’s history.

The site was formed in 1911 as an armoury and used during the First World War then later used for social functions before becoming a museum.

She explained that one of the room designs is tapping into factual events that unfolded on the site.“And the cold war room is tapping into its latent cold war history,” said Alvarez.

“In a way, this is an escape room that isn’t just an escape room. It’s bridging other traditions of immersive performance and site-specific theatre, we’re straddling all those traditions and hence this collaboration of disciplines.”

Museum vice-president Berndt Meyer said this form of escape room is bringing history to a generation, through the subterfuge of play.

“There are a lot of static displays at every museum, but this one brings it into context,” he said.

“Because we have real stories that took place here. This place is full of history.”

Students in the control room monitored the progress of teams in the two rooms, and as the clocks ticked closer to the hour, they were hoping someone would find enough clues to set their way to freedom.

After several run-throughs, no one had yet escaped in the allotted time.

Tynan Manuel, one of the room designers, said it’s meant to be hard.

“Most of the time in escape rooms you go in, and you will fail.“

“Getting out is great, getting close is still a great feeling.”

(See the original article at the St. Catharines Standard to watch the featured video on the escape room!)

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